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Their visit to the Vatican comes after Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s recent announcement of his intention to address an antiquated law in the United Kingdom that prohibits a Catholic from ascending to the throne.

Prof. Phillip Goyret
Vice Dean of School of Theology, Pontifical  University of the Holy Cross (Rome)
“I think we can say that it has been a  violation of religious freedom historically.”

Professor Phillip Goyret says that the United Kingdom has come a long way in the last century with regards to civil rights and Catholics.

And though he says this law is a form of religious discrimination, he admits getting rid of it is a lot more complicated than it seems.

Prof. Phillip Goyret
Vice Dean of School of Theology, Pontifical  University of the Holy Cross (Rome)
“With respect to Catholics and the crown of England, the problem is not simple because the queen or king of England is at the same time the head of the Church of England. So if a Catholic becomes king or Queen he would be also the head of the Church of England. Which is strange."  

Though there seems to be no quick solution to the hindering law, Goyret hopes the U.K can start dissecting the issue from different angles.

Prof. Phillip Goyret
Vice Dean of School of Theology, Pontifical  University of the Holy Cross (Rome)
“Maybe then what has to change is this policy, no? Why the head of the Church of England has to be the king or the queen? I think that’s the area and the matters that should be studied better.”

The law, called the 1701 Act of Settlement, was designed to ensure Protestant ascension to the throne in the United Kingdom. Today it’s harshly criticised by Catholics who label it religious discrimination.

The Pope will probably visit England in the spring of 2010 at the invitation of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. There are wide expectations that he will beatify Cardinal John Newman while on his visit.

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