The members of the Church Leaders Group (Ireland), along with other church representatives, met with His Majesty King Charles III when he recently visited St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral on the Hill of Armagh. On the site of St Patrick’s fifth century ‘Great Stone Church’, The King had the opportunity to hear something of the work of the Church in Ireland in relation to peace building, environmental issues, and work with the impoverished and with those from other places in the world now living in the local community in Northern Ireland. A period of reflection and intercession followed during which the Church Leaders prayed for God’s blessing and guidance for The King.
The King was hosted by the Dean of Armagh, the Very Revd Shane Forster, who welcomed His Majesty to the ecclesiastical capital and to ‘this shared sacred space, where for centuries pilgrims have come to learn, pray and experience the loving presence of God.’
The Cathedral Choir, which was founded by a charter of King Charles I in 1634, was honoured to sing the words of ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’ upon the King’s arrival and the gentle and calming words of the ‘Irish Blessing’ to a setting by Bob Chilcott during the time of prayer.
The Hill of Armagh has been a place of Christian worship since the 5th century AD. It has connections to both St Patrick and to another King as it is the burial place of Brian Boroimhe (Boru), High King of Ireland, who died at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
As Prince of Wales, His Majesty was previously the guest of the Cathedral on a visit to Armagh in June 2000 and was hosted by St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral when he returned to the city in May 2019. The Cathedral was honoured to welcome Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, when it held the Royal Maundy Service in March 2008.
Archbishop McDowell remarked, ‘The King is no stranger to Northern Ireland, nor indeed to the whole island of Ireland, for which I know he has a particular affection and friendship. I know too that he comes today with words of encouragement to the Church Leaders as we continue to work towards a reconciled future. Our prayers of blessing for The King and Queen today will continue as together they enter ever more fully into their vocation in the years ahead.’
Dean Forster commented, ‘In this Coronation year it was a great honour to welcome His Majesty The King to the Cathedral and have the opportunity to share something of the story of this ancient holy site and place of pilgrimage with him before all present joined in prayer with The King and for The King. It was also a particular joy for the Cathedral Choir to sing for The King as they are the current members of a foundation which is linked to one of His Majesty’s predecessors and namesake, King Charles I. A moment the young choristers will remember for a very long time to come.’