Church and monarchy share calendars

Once again, major events are happening in the Catholic Church and the Royal Family around the same time.

CNN noticed this strange happenstance.

Have you heard about the historic event this weekend that’s drawing hundreds of thousands to one of Europe’s leading capitals for a long day of pageantry?

No, not Friday’s royal wedding in London. I’m referring to Sunday’s beatification of Pope John Paul II in Rome.

It’s hard to deny that international media coverage of William and Kate’s nuptials is overshadowing preparations for Sunday’s beatification, the last step before sainthood.

There’s a history to this.

Pope John Paul II died days before the last royal wedding – Prince Charles’ marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles in April 2005.

Then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, both of whom were scheduled to attend the wedding, also were expected at the pope’s funeral…

Eight years earlier, leading lights of the royal family and the church vied for international attention, this time both in tragedy: Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died within a week of each other in 1997.

That’s an odd way of putting it, but we certainly recall the jarring timing of those sad events that week.

“Many lamented that Mother Teresa, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and ‘living saint’ if there ever was one, was overshadowed by Diana’s death and funeral,” says David Gibson, a Catholic journalist and Vatican expert.

Others remarked about how ‘Mother Teresa-like’ that turned out to be.

The tragedy of Diana’s death in a car accident at age 36 garnered more media attention than Mother Teresa’s passing at age 87.

The humble religious servant of the poor would have wanted it that way, I recall hearing at the time.

“But there were connections between those two women as well,” Gibson notes. In 1992, Diana met with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, a reported high point of the princess’ trip to India, and the two met again in New York just months before they died.

Though this blog frames an otherwise interesting post in unecessary conflict, it winds up on a decent note.

If royal-Catholic tensions continue this weekend – with some Catholics no doubt miffed about the beatification playing second fiddle to the royal wedding – Gibson says he doubts John Paul would have minded.

“He would certainly have loved the focus on the royal marriage as an event undergirding the importance of the family,” Gibson says.

And note to CNN: some Catholics are really into both.


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