King Charles promises to protect freedom of conscience and 'space' for faith

King Charles III meeting Christian and other faith leaders at Buckingham Palace.(Photo: YouTube/The Royal Family Channel)

King Charles III has told faith leaders that his work of protecting diversity in Britain must include "protecting the space for faith itself".

As Britain's new monarch, King Charles inherits the titles of Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith. 

He spoke about his own religion and the importance of diversity of belief when he welcomed leaders from different faiths to a reception at Buckingham Palace on Friday. 

Guests at the reception included the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev David Hoyle, Jesus House senior pastor Agu Irukwu, and Rev Helen Cameron of the Free Churches Group.

Addressing the room, the King said that love was at the heart of his own Christian faith and that this compelled him to protect those who follow other spiritual paths or embrace secular beliefs.

The King also spoke of his desire to protect the "vital" principle of freedom of conscience. 

"I have always thought of Britain as a 'community of communities'," he said.

"That has led me to understand that the Sovereign has an additional duty - less formally recognised but to be no less diligently discharged.

"It is the duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practise through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals."

The King then said that he wanted to carry out his responsibilities as Sovereign "in a way which reflects the world in which we now live" and to continue the work of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in working to preserve freedom of conscience for all beliefs.

"As a member of the Church of England, my Christian beliefs have love at their very heart," he continued.

"By my most profound convictions, therefore - as well as by my position as Sovereign - I hold myself bound to respect those who follow other spiritual paths, as well as those who seek to live their lives in accordance with secular ideals.

"The beliefs that flourish in, and contribute to, our richly diverse society differ. They, and our society, can only thrive through a clear collective commitment to those vital principles of freedom of conscience, generosity of spirit and care for others which are, to me, the essence of our nationhood.

"I am determined, as King, to preserve and promote those principles across all communities, and for all beliefs, with all my heart." 

The King also spoke about the Christian aspect of the oath he will take at his coronation.

"I am a committed Anglican Christian, and at my Coronation I will take an oath relating to the settlement of the Church of England. At my Accession, I have already solemnly given — as has every Sovereign over the last 300 years — an Oath which pledges to maintain and preserve the Protestant faith in Scotland," he said.