Royal wedding: Facebook row bishop suspended

  • Published
The Bishop of Willesden
Image caption,
The Bishop of Willesden has been asked to take a step back

A Church of England bishop who made "deeply offensive" comments on Facebook about the royal engagement has been suspended from his public duties.

The Bishop of Willesden, the Right Reverend Pete Broadbent, said the union between Prince William and Kate Middleton would last about seven years.

He apologised for the remarks on Monday but has been asked by the Bishop of London to withdraw from public ministry "until further notice".

The royal couple are to marry in April.

Clarence House announced on Tuesday that Westminster Abbey would be the venue for the 29 April wedding, which Prime Minister David Cameron said would be a public holiday to mark a "national day of celebration".

However, when the news of the engagement broke, the bishop wrote on the social networking site: "We need a party in Calais for all good republicans who can't stand the nauseating tosh that surrounds this event."

The Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, who announced the suspension, said he had been "appalled" by the comments.

In a statement, he said: "In common with most of the country, I share the joy which the news of the engagement has brought.

'Unreserved apology'

"I have now had an opportunity to discuss with Bishop Peter how his comments came to be made and I have noted his unreserved apology.

"Nevertheless, I have asked him to withdraw from public ministry until further notice.

"I have been in touch with St James's Palace to express my own dismay on behalf of the Church."

Image caption,
The Bishop criticised media coverage of the engagement as "fawning deferential nonsense"

The bishop made a number of comments on the site on Wednesday.

He said: "Marriages should be about family, not "some piece of national flim-flam paid for out of our taxes, for a couple whose lives are going to be persecuted and spoilt by an ignorant media".

He criticised the monarchy for a history of broken marriages and a "corrupt and sexist" hereditary principle, before going on to attack the "gutter press" for "persecuting" the Royal Family.

In a statement published on Monday, Bishop Broadbent said he had conveyed his own "sincere regrets" to the couple and to Prince Charles and admitted he had been "unwise".

"I recognise that the tone of my language and the content of what I said were deeply offensive, and I apologise unreservedly for the hurt caused," he said.

"I accept that this was a major error of judgement on my part. I wish Prince William and Kate Middleton a happy and lifelong marriage and will hold them in my prayers."

'Right to speak'

Graham Smith, of anti-monarchy campaign group Republic, said while he would not have used Bishop Broadbent's language, he shared his concerns about the "celebrity culture" surrounding the Royal Family.

"He has every right to raise those concerns and speak his mind on the matter, even using strong language to get his point across."

Bishop Broadbent was not believed to be among those present at the general synod or during a service of Holy Communion at Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on Tuesday morning, the Press Association news agency reported.

At the synod, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams said he spoke for those present in expressing "delight" at the forthcoming marriage.

The Bishop of Willesden is responsible for churches in the London boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Harrow and Hillingdon.

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