King is ‘a proven friend of Northern Ireland’, cathedral service told

The King has been described as a proven friend of Northern Ireland during a cathedral service ahead of his coronation.

Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris and the Catholic Archbishop of Ireland Eamon Martin were among the congregation at the Church of Ireland’s historic St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh city on Tuesday evening.

US consul-general Paul Narain and Mark Hanniffy, Irish joint secretary of the North/South Ministerial Council, were also at the service before Charles’s coronation at Westminster Abbey on Saturday.

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Archbishop Eamon Martin and Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd John McDowell, with Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris at the end of a Service of Thanksgiving in preparation for the Coronation of King Charles III at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. (Liam McBurney/PA)

The cathedral choir sang a number of pieces of music performed at previous coronation services, including Handel’s Zadok the Priest.

Mr Martin, who is to attend the coronation, gave a Bible reading before the sermon by Church of Ireland Archbishop John McDowell.

Mr McDowell is set to present the Sovereign’s Orb during the coronation service at Westminster Abbey, the first time this part of the ceremony has been undertaken by anyone other than the Archbishop of Canterbury

During his address Mr McDowell will “have the prayers of all the people of Northern Ireland in my heart”.

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The congregation at St Patrick’s Cathedral (Liam McBurney/PA)

He told the congregation the King has “shown himself to be a friend of Northern Ireland”.

He added: “Indeed a friend of Ireland North and South – with a very detailed knowledge of our affairs, and more importantly, we have a place close to his heart.”

Mr McDowell said Charles has an advantage over many of his predecessors in his “incomparable experience of working with an enormous array of people from every nation under the sun”, adding the familiarity that comes from working with people over a long period of time is “a priceless gift in terms of discipleship and a practical monarchy”.

The service concluded with the National Anthem and a collection was taken to support the work of Southern Area Hospice Services.

Speaking before the service, Archbishop Martin said he was pleased to attend to represent the Catholic community, and offer prayers and thoughts for the King on Saturday.

“I’m also very privileged to be able to attend the coronation myself, along with the other church leaders from the island of Ireland, it’s a very special moment,” he said.

“We were at the time of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and so to return on Saturday on a much happier occasion is a wonderful privilege.

“The new King himself said just before the funeral of Queen Elizabeth that he wants to be someone who represents the diversity of faiths and indeed who represents people of no faith, and all traditions on these islands.”