UK

Charles given handwritten Christmas letter by six-year-old girl on church visit

The King was given a handwritten Christmas letter by a young girl during a visit to the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre UK in Hertfordshire (Kin Cheung/PA)
The King was given a handwritten Christmas letter by a young girl during a visit to the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre UK in Hertfordshire (Kin Cheung/PA) The King was given a handwritten Christmas letter by a young girl during a visit to the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre UK in Hertfordshire (Kin Cheung/PA)

The King was given a handwritten Christmas letter by a young girl during a visit to an orthodox church.

Charles attended an Advent service and Christmas reception at the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre UK in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, on Tuesday.

His visit was part of continued efforts to encourage inter-faith dialogue and a greater understanding of different religions in Britain and abroad.

Six-year-old Taormina approached the King through the crowd and handed him the letter, which included love hearts and the words “Happy Holidays!” and “To: King Charls”.

Royal visit to Coptic Orthodox Church Centre
Royal visit to Coptic Orthodox Church Centre Taormina’s handwritten letter was addressed to ‘King Charls’ and included several warm messages (Harry Stedman/PA)

The Coptic Orthodox community, an indigenous Egyptian Christian community, has grown with the establishment of a diocese in London, with approximately 40,000 Coptic Orthodox Christians now in the UK.

They make up around 15% of the population in Egypt, the largest presence of Christians in the Middle East, but those of Christian faith face widespread persecution in the region.

Charles last visited the centre almost exactly 10 years ago, when Prince of Wales, in December 2013, and photographs of the occasion were displayed at the entrance.

The King was greeted on arrival by the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Robert Voss, local councillors and the Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith.

Royal visit to Coptic Orthodox Church Centre
Royal visit to Coptic Orthodox Church Centre Charles attended a short service in the Cathedral of St George (Kin Cheung/PA)

A 15-minute service including prayers, gospel readings and the Orthodox Creed, was held in the Cathedral of St George, with Charles sitting in the front row of pews.

At the conclusion of the service, sisters Sarah and Laura Ayouba gave a cello and violin performance for the royal visitor.

Charles was then led to the church hall, where he stopped to speak with individuals at four stalls showcasing different services held across the diocese.

He then shook hands and exchanged laughs as he moved through the congregation of around 500 people in the packed hall, eventually coming across Taormina and receiving her letter.

The King was also given a fragment from the Coptic Orthodox Altar within the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem by Archbishop Angaelos.

He then signed the Visitors’ Book before unveiling a plaque commemorating his visit.

Royal visit to Coptic Orthodox Church Centre
Royal visit to Coptic Orthodox Church Centre The King and Archbishop Angaelos unveiled a plaque following the Advent service and Christmas reception at the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre UK (Kin Cheung/PA)

Speaking to the congregation after the unveiling, Charles said he has the “greatest admiration for the Coptic community”, before adding: “If I may say so, this has been a very special occasion and I want to wish you nothing but a very happy Christmas indeed.”

The King concluded his visit by planting a plum tree at the front of the centre, and waved to attendees as he left.

David Boutros, trustee of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of London, told the PA news agency: “It makes me really proud that our King decided to come to visit us in our church, and it’s a special day that I’ll tell my kids about and they hopefully ask me questions about in the future.”

His fellow trustee, Tina Salih, told PA: “I think for a lot of us we’d heard about the King coming 10 years ago, but this time to actually be able to witness that… it’s quite a humbling experience.”