By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz entered the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville March 20 shoulder to shoulder before a crowd of about 700 people — some hoping to catch a glimpse of the prince and others interested in what he had to say about sustainable living.
Prince Charles visited Louisville on the last day of his four-day trip to the United States. He and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visited several organizations around town where they met local students and spoke about promoting “harmony and health,” the subject of a book the prince published in 2010.
At the cathedral, Archbishop Kurtz presented a lifetime achievement award to the prince on behalf of the Center for Interfaith Relations (CIR). The award recognized the prince’s dedication to promoting harmony. The CIR, sponsor of the annual Festival of Faiths, has focused on care for creation in recent years.
The archbishop thanked the prince for promoting “the deepest levels of global interreligious understanding.”
“We believe there is, can and must be a growing spirit of harmony and health in our region, and for that reason we are eternally grateful for your coming, allowing us to be inspired by you and motivated to embark on new journeys of learning about how we are all sisters and brothers to each other and all living creatures within all of God’s creation,” he told Prince Charles.
The royal visit was organized by the relatively new Institute for Healthy Air, Water and Soil, co-founded by Christy Brown, a member of the cathedral and a co-founder of the CIR.
Prince Charles spoke about striking a balance between humankind and natural resources during his 30-minute keynote address at the cathedral.
He noted that in the 1960s, a “frenzy of change” caused traditional ideas to be discarded. This “seemed to me a dangerously shortsighted approach” to the natural world, agriculture, education and health care, he said.
“If we wish to maintain our civilizations, then we must look after the Earth and actively maintain its many intricate states of balance so that it achieves the necessary active state of harmony which is the prerequisite for the health of everything in creation,” said Prince Charles. “In other words, that which sustains us must also itself be sustained. But we are not keeping to our side of the bargain and, consequently, the sustainability of the entire harmonious system is collapsing. In failing the Earth we are failing humanity.”
Prince Charles said the solution lies in balance. And there’s a place not only for empiricism, he said, but also for philosophy and religion.
He congratulated the city of Louisville on its efforts to promote health and harmony.He offered “warmest congratulations not only for what you have already achieved, but also what you are striving for in the future — a model of truly integrated and holistic thinking on a city scale.”
He also noted during his address that Kentucky farmer and celebrated author Wendell Berry is one of his heroes.
Berry was chosen to introduce the prince, whom Berry said is “almost alone among world leaders raising warning.”
Berry noted that Prince Charles is “one of the few people on Earth who can be called a landlord.” He called the prince courageous for vocalizing his concerns for the Earth.
Prior to the keynote address, Prince Charles attended roundtable discussions in the cathedral undercroft with business and faith leaders, including Archbishop Kurtz.
Earlier in the day, eight students from Assumption High School were among the many students who greeted the prince at the African American Heritage Museum. The museum hosted the Harmony and Health Initiative, where local advocates discussed health issues.
The students said the prince complimented their school uniforms and senior Lauren Monaghan shook his hand.
“Everyone got a chance to talk to him,” Monaghan said. “It was so cool. He was really nice.”
The experience wasn’t just about meeting royalty, though, noted junior Maddy Blandford. She and her classmates heard disturbing statistics at the program, she said.
“I was surprised by the statistics about Louisville and how polluted it is,” she said. “The changes they’re trying to make are really important, I think.”