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March 7, 2001

Church of England to ease divorce rules

Victoria Combe
The Daily Telegraph, with files from news services
National Post

LONDON - The Church of England, in which the divorced Prince Charles may one day hope to marry his mistress, is taking steps to lift its ban on remarrying divorced people.

Rev. Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester, announced on Monday his diocese will be the first to end the ban. The announcement followed a vote by the Diocesan Synod, 132 to five, in favour of a motion that "there are circumstances in which divorced people might be remarried in church in the lifetime of their former spouse."

The move follows proposals put forward last fall by Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester, who said couples could have a full church ceremony if their relationship was not a factor in the breakdown of a previous marriage, and if there were no outstanding commitments from the previous relationship.

It is not clear whether the guidelines would allow Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, to marry Camilla Parker Bowles in the Church he will head should he become king.

His late wife, Diana, Princess of Wales, said the couple's admitted adultery played a part in the breakdown of the royal marriage.

The vote in Chester, which includes the county of Cheshire and parts of the greater Manchester area, is part of a national program by the Church of England to test opinion. The other 43 dioceses are expected to follow suit.

Each diocese will vote on the issue this year. The findings will be debated at the Church's General Synod in November.

Eleven other dioceses have voted in favour of reform.

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