King Charles calls for acts of friendship in first public remarks since Kate's cancer diagnosis

ByCaitlin Danaher and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN
Thursday, March 28, 2024
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LONDON -- King Charles III gave public remarks for Maundy Thursday, addressing the importance of acts of friendship, following his and Catherine, Princess of Wales' cancer diagnoses.

The King's audio message - which was played at the annual Royal Maundy service at Worcester Cathedral in England on Thursday - were his first public comments since Catherine revealed she was undergoing chemotherapy. The princess' announcement put an end to months of speculation over her health.

Charles, who is also currently undergoing treatment for cancer, did not attend the service, leaving his wife, Queen Camilla, to hand out traditional Maundy gifts on his behalf.

Queen Camilla's presence comes as Charles steps back from public-facing duties while he receives outpatient treatment.

The King is, however, expected to attend church on Easter Sunday alongside his wife, marking his most significant public appearance since his diagnosis.

Maundy Thursday - also known as Holy Thursday - is a Christian event that takes place each year on the Thursday before Easter. It is an ancient ceremony that dates back to 600 A.D. and marks how Jesus washed the feet of disciples at the Last Supper.

Charles' recording for the service opened with a reading of "The First Lesson" from the Gospel of John before he expressed his "great sadness" that he wasn't able to join the congregation, saying the service "has a very special place in my heart."

"It has its origin in the life of Our Lord who knelt before his disciples and, to their great surprise, washed their travel-weary feet. And, as we have just heard, in doing so he deliberately gave to them and to us all an example of how we should serve and care for each other," the King said in his personal message.

"In this country we are blessed by all the different services that exist for our welfare. But over and above these organizations and their selfless staff, we need and benefit greatly from those who extend the hand of friendship to us, especially in a time of need."

The British monarch used his message ahead of the Easter weekend to reiterate his coronation pledge "not to be served but to serve" with "my whole heart."

In the past, the monarch washed the feet of those in need. But in modern times, the sovereign gives out specially-minted coins to people in recognition of their service to the church and local community.

Queen Camilla will distribute the Maundy money in two purses - one red and one white - at Worcester Cathedral to 75 men and 75 women, in a nod to the King's age.

The King said in his message that the 150 men and women who would receive the Maundy Money "are wonderful examples of such kindness; of going way beyond the call of duty and of giving so much of their lives to the service of others in their communities."

Charles' message was recorded in mid-March, according to PA Media, and did not directly refer to his or Kate's health.

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Buckingham Palace announced in early February that Charles had been diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer.