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Cardinal wants end to ban on Catholic royals

An ancient law banning the monarch from adopting Catholicism or marrying a Roman Catholic should be withdrawn, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has said.

Speaking ahead of a special multi-faith service to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations, Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said the historic law was out of date and that future monarchs should be free to marry anyone they wanted.

"It is not really and should not be relevant in today's world and today's Britain," he told Sky television on Sunday.

"It's not so much that it is an act of discrimination against Roman Catholics -- which it is -- but it seems to me to be discrimination against the royal family."

The law banning a monarch or heir-to-the-throne from marrying a Catholic is set out in the 1701 Act of Settlement.

The act aimed to ensure a Protestant succeeded to the throne in the aftermath of the revolution that saw the Catholic James II replaced by the Protestant King William III of Orange.

Murphy-O'Connor pointed out that while the law would ban Prince William, Charles' son and the second in line to the throne, from marrying a Catholic, he could still marry anyone of another faith, such as a Hindu or a Buddhist.


4 Jun 2002