Religious leaders recall Prince Philip's spiritual curiosity

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Britain's Prince Edward, Sophie Countess of Wessex and their daughter Lady Louise Windsor, attend the Sunday service at the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge, Windsor, following the announcement of Prince Philip, in England, Sunday, April 11, 2021. Britain's Prince Philip, the irascible and tough-minded husband of Queen Elizabeth II who spent more than seven decades supporting his wife in a role that mostly defined his life, died on Friday. (Steve Parsons/Pool Photo via AP)

LONDON – Churches in Britain held services Sunday to remember Prince Philip as people of many religions reflected on a man whose gruff exterior hid a strong personal faith and deep curiosity about others’ beliefs.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby led a service of remembrance at Canterbury Cathedral in southeast England for the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who died Friday at the age of 99.

Welby, who is set to preside at Philip's funeral on Saturday at Windsor Castle, led prayers for Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, and contemplated “a very long life, remarkably led.”

In London's Westminster Abbey, where Philip married the then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947, Dean of Westminster David Hoyle remembered the former naval officer's “self-effacing sense of service.”

Most people’s glimpses of Philip in a religious setting were of him beside the queen at commemorative services, or walking to church with the royal family on Christmas Day. But his religious background and interests were more varied than his conventional role might suggest.

Born into the Greek royal family as Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, he was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church. His father was exiled and his family left Greece when Philip was very young. He became an Anglican when he married Elizabeth, who as queen is supreme governor of the Church of England.

In the 1960s, he helped set up St. George’s House, a religious study center at the royal family’s Windsor Castle seat, where Philip would join clergy, academics, businesspeople and politicians to discuss the state of the world.

He was a regular visitor to Mount Athos, a monastic community and religious sanctuary in Greece, and was a long-time patron of the Templeton Prize, a lucrative award for contribution to life’s “spiritual dimension” whose winners include Mother Teresa.