Pope Paul has refused permission for a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II to marry a divorced Roman Catholic in a Catholic church, even though the Queen consented to their wedding.
An official church statement yesterday said the reason is that Prince Michael of Kent wants the children of his marriage to an Austrian baroness brought up as Anglicans and not as Catholics.
The 35-year-old soldier-prince planned a wedding in Austria next month to Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, 33. Her marriage to London banker Thomas Troubridge ended last year, and she was granted a papal annulment last month.
Prince Michael gave up his right to the crown last month after announcing his intention to marry a Catholic, Queen Elizabeth heads the Church of England, and all the royal family are Anglicans.
Because the baroness's first marriage was dissolved, Prince Michael cannot be married in an Anglican church. Because he is a member of the royal family, he cannot be married in a British office for civil marriages, which is for commoners only.
The baroness, a devout Catholic, appealed personally to the pope for a dispensation allowing her to marry in the church. She had accepted the prince's wishes about the religious upbringing of any children they might have, a spokesman for Prince Michael said.
A spokesman for the prince said the couple is "very distressed" over the Vatican decision. It is expected that they will be married in a civil ceremony in Vienna on June 30.
Meanwhile, it was announced that a Catholic mass will be said in the Anglican chapel of the House of Commons next month for the first time since the 16th century.
The announcement is likelyto anger some sections of the Anglican Church.