Ian Ellis: It will be difficult, but hopefully the Royals find reconciliation

How Prince Harry can row back from where he has landed himself is very difficult to see.
Reconciliation will require both sides to acknowledge their faults, writes Ian EllisReconciliation will require both sides to acknowledge their faults, writes Ian Ellis
Reconciliation will require both sides to acknowledge their faults, writes Ian Ellis

Most people who have paid any attention will have their views of his astonishing claims but, sadly, his popularity with the British public is reportedly now at a record low.

However, family disagreements can be very deep and complicated and there are usually two sides to any such story.

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Added to the normal pressures in family life, no doubt being constantly in the public view, constantly being photographed, constantly having stories published that may or may not be entirely accurate, must be exhausting for any high profile individual.

Canon Ian Ellis is a former editor of The Church of Ireland GazetteCanon Ian Ellis is a former editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette
Canon Ian Ellis is a former editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette

There will be certain material comforts that most people will not have but that may not really compensate for not having a more normal existence.

What strikes me about what Harry has had to say is that so much of it is rather typical of family squabbles, albeit on a rather grander scale.

Families do have fall-outs and sometimes they are utterly tragic and sometimes possibly even interminable.

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I remember once at a funeral reception being asked by a gentleman family mourner to look across the room to a woman in conversation with others attending the event.

“See that woman there?” he said. “That's my sister. She hasn't spoken to me for 16 years.”

Of course, Christmas, when family members who otherwise seldom see each other are often thrown together, can be a time of tensions. Family feuds can erupt over the turkey.

Yet, rather than allowing oneself to get hot under the collar, the sensible thing to do is to practise patience. Yes, it can be a big challenge to turn the other cheek, but it is good advice to try to follow that scriptural injunction.

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Looking ahead, the coronation of King Charles is scheduled for May 6th in Westminster Abbey. If Harry were in attendance it would create a monumentally awkward scenario requiring an especially talented choreographer.

Naturally, it would be good if, in time for the coronation, the whole brouhaha could die down sufficiently so that some degree of normality could emerge from the ashes of this almighty ruckus, but broken relationships can take a very long time to heal.

However, allow me with my clergy hat on to say that the Prince Harry debacle, particularly where it concerns reported disagreements with Prince William, reminds me of the even worse biblical story of the brothers, Cain and Abel.

To recap on that epic fall-out as recounted in the Book of Genesis, Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve.

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We are told that Abel kept livestock and that Cain worked the land. They both made offerings to the Lord from the fruits of their labours.

However, we are also told that the Lord looked favourably on Abel and his offering, but not so on Cain and his offering.

This angered Cain.

No doubt with malevolent intent, he invites his brother Abel to take a walk with him and, during the walk, Cain attacks and actually kills Abel.

When the Lord subsequently asks Cain where his brother is, he replies that he doesn't know, adding the now famous but actually brutal words, “Am I my brother's keeper?”

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Those words represent a stark denial of the mutually caring community that is God's intention for us all.

For his sin of murder, Cain is condemned by the Lord to be a restless wanderer.

Cain protests that if he is wandering here and there someone will kill him, but the Lord assures him that this will not happen as he will sign him with a special mark to protect him.

It is an illustration of God's mercy and care even for those who go so badly wrong.

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The story of Cain and Abel shows just how deep a rift can be, even between two brothers, but that even in the worst of such circumstances there has to be a place for mercy.

In the Royal Family, it is to be hoped that the current controversy involving Prince Harry will lead, not to a permanent rift, but to a reconciliation.

Such an outcome, difficult though it may be to envisage just now, could show the world that families can indeed overcome deep challenges.

Reconciliation, however, will require both sides to acknowledge their faults, to seek forgiveness from each other and to be ready to change their ways.

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Cain, wandering in the land of Nod (which means 'wandering'), went on to marry and the couple had a son, Enoch, after whom Cain named a city that he was building.

Precisely who his wife was if Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve, and precisely why Cain would build a city, and precisely who might have killed him, are all 'old chestnuts' of questions.

However, the biblical scholar, Alan Richardson, writes that we need not be troubled by such questions because “Genesis gives us not precise factual history, but a meditation upon history as seen from the point of view of the Creator's intentions”.

Those who take a fundamentalist view of scripture will no doubt have their own explanations but I, for one, find Richardson's interpretation both fitting and credible.

Canon Ian Ellis is a former editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette.

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