MANCHESTER, England (CNS) – The law that bans a British monarch from marrying a Catholic is to be lifted after more than 300 years.
The reforms were announced following the unanimous agreement of the 16 nations that have Queen Elizabeth II as their constitutional head of state.
But they will not include the repeal of a Catholic becoming monarch because allegiance to the pope might conflict with the sovereign’s role as the supreme governor of the Church of England.
The changes will also see the end of the ancient tradition of male primogeniture, the rule under which boys take precedence in the line to the throne over elder sisters.
The reforms will be included in the next British program of parliamentary business to be unveiled in November, while New Zealand will lead a working group to coordinate their implementation in other Commonwealth countries affected.
The announcement, made at an Oct. 28 summit of Commonwealth heads of government in Perth, Australia, was welcomed by Catholic leaders in Britain.
“This will eliminate a point of unjust discrimination against Catholics and will be welcomed not only by Catholics but far more widely,” said Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“At the same time I fully recognize the importance of the position of the established church (Anglican) in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today,” he said.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh, president of the Scottish bishops’ conference, said that he was pleased to note the process had started to repeal aspects of the laws.
“I look forward to studying the detail of the proposed reforms and their implications in due course,” the cardinal said.
In recent years there have been 11 attempts to reform the laws on royal succession, but none has made any meaningful progress, partly because of the difficulty in reforming laws across 16 jurisdictions.