Cardinal Vincent Nichols will celebrate Vespers according to the Latin rite in the Chapel Roya
l of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace in February 2016. This will be the first time that vespers will be celebrated by a Catholic cleric at the palace for the last 450 years. Cardinal Nichols, who is Archbishop of Westminster and president of the conference of Catholic bishops of England and Wales, will go to Hampton Court on February 9.
For the occasion, Anglican Bishop Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres of London will deliver a homily. The liturgy is to be dedicated to St. John the Baptist. This Chapel Royal was built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey – the Lord Chancellor of Henry VIII – in the early 1500s. The chapel was dedicated to the saint, and built on the site of a former chapel of the Knights of St. John Hospitaller. The knights were an order of priests and monks that emerged from the days of the Crusades when England, Scotland and Wales were still Catholic countries.
Before the liturgy begins, Cardinal Nichols and Bishop Chartres will host an open discussion of the relations between the Catholic Church and the Established Church of England, which endured a schism during the time of Henry VIII. When Cardinal Wolsey was unable to secure an annulment of the Tudor monarch’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, he was stripped of his power. In addition, Henry VIII seized possession of Hampton Court, which has remained part of the royal patrimony ever since. British monarchs have not lived there since the 18ths century.
Wolsey had long been a favorite of Henry VIII, having replaced Sir Thomas More - who the king had beheaded for refusing to declare that the monarch was the leader of the Church. After his fall from grace, Wolsey fell ill while on a journey and died. Before his death, he reputedly mused: "I see the matter against me how it is framed. But if I had served God as diligently as I have done the King, he would not have given me over in my grey hairs."
The founder of the Genesis Foundation, John Studzinski said of the planned event, “Dialogue between faiths is much needed and welcomed in these turbulent times. We need to recognize that we have more in common than not.” He expressed delight in the dialogue between the Anglican and Catholic faiths. Speaking for the Choral Foundation, Michele Price said that the chapel was at “centre stage to the religious changes in the 16th century.” It served not only the spiritual needs of several monarchs – Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I – it was also the venue for “new and beautiful music and in so doing became the cradle of English church music.” She added, “This historic occasion enables us to explore our rich heritage and bring together Christian traditions as we celebrate 500 years of Hampton Court Palace.”
Among the notable musicians associated with the Chapel Roya are Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, whose contributions to music have been enduring. Music at the coming liturgy will be provided by musician Harry Christophers, and the The Sixteen and Genesis Sixteen ensembles.