The Queen has invited Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor to stay at Sandringham and preach to the Royal Family at their Sunday morning service, the Telegraph reported yesterday. Prince Philip, the Queen Mother and other members of the Royal Family are expected to be staying at Sandringham during the Cardinal's visit on 12-13 January.
The Cardinal is the first Catholic Archbishop of Westminster to be asked to stay with the Queen at her Norfolk estate. The invitation marks a formal end to 500 years of difficulties between the Queen as Head of the Church of England and the Catholic Church.
An Archbishop's House spokesman said: "The Cardinal is greatly honoured by the Queen's invitation. This is a further sign of the Queen's own determination to promote ecumenical relations within the nation."
Tensions between the Catholic and Anglican churches have eased in recent years. When Pope John Paul II visited England in 1982, the Queen welcomed him to Buckingham Palace. In 1995 she became the first monarch since the Stuarts to join in a Catholic service when she attended vespers at Westminster Cathedral.
And in 1999, the Queen awarded the Cardinal Basil Hume the Order of Merit, days before he died. A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "This is in the spirit of co-operation, unity and friendship that Her Majesty has always practised. It is a sign of the ecumenical age we are in."