Perth, Australia, Oct 28, 2011 / 10:41 am America/Denver (CNA).
The centuries-old law barring the British monarch from marrying a Catholic has been scrapped but not the rule forbidding them from being a Catholic.
“Let me be clear, the monarch must be in communion with the Church of England because he or she is the head of that Church,” said British Prime Minister, David Cameron, as he announced the change Oct. 28.
“But it is simply wrong they should be denied the chance to marry a Catholic if they wish to do so. After all, they are already quite free to marry someone of any other faith.”
The decision was made at a summit of the 16 countries that still retain the British monarch as head of state. The gathering took place in the western Australian city of Perth.
The bar on the monarchy marrying a Catholic or personally being one has been British law since the passing of the “Act of Settlement” in 1701.
“I welcome the statement from the Prime Minster indicating that his Government together with all of the Commonwealth Heads of Government intend to reform the Act of Settlement,” said Cardinal Keith P. O’Brien of St. Andrews & Edinburgh, Scotland.
The cardinal previously labeled the Act as “discriminatory and offensive,” which led him to say today that he is “pleased to note that the process of change, which I hope will lead to repeal of the Act, has started.”
He was backed in that call by Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond who also welcomed the lifting of the marriage ban but said it was “deeply disappointing” that Catholics were still unable to ascend to the throne.
“It surely would have been possible to find a mechanism which would have protected the status of the Church of England without keeping in place an unjustifiable barrier on the grounds of religion, in terms of the monarchy,” he said.
However, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said he would not go as far as calling for the Act of Settlement to be entirely repealed.