Nearly three thousand people have signed a petition calling for Richard III’s remains to be taken to a Catholic chapel or church prior to his reinterment at Leicester’s Anglican cathedral.
The petition, addressed to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, has been organised by the historians whose efforts led to the king’s remains being found under a car park in Leicester.
Richard III, who died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, before the Reformation, will be reinterred on March 26. The petition, which has already been handed in to the cardinal, is calling for his remains to be placed in their coffin in a “place of Catholic sanctity” rather than at the University of Leicester.
The petition reads: “We, the undersigned, are concerned Catholics who urge our leaders to act now to honour the deceased king by allowing this ceremony to be carried out reverently in a place of Catholic sanctity with the prayers and rites of his own religion.”
Philippa Langley, leader of the Looking for Richard project, said the ceremonies leading up to his reinterment should take into account Richard III’s Catholic faith.
She said: “It seems this former king and head of state is to be treated as a scientific specimen right up to and including the point at which he is laid in his coffin.”
However, a joint statement by Leicester Cathedral and the Catholic Diocese of Nottingham said these concerns were “fundamentally misplaced”.
The statement said: “There is no requirement in the Catholic tradition for prayers to be said at the coffining of human remains, including those of a monarch. The arrangements agreed between the university and the cathedral have the full support of the Catholic Church.”
Ecumenical services will surround the event, with Cardinal Nichols preaching a service of compline on the day the king’s remains are received into the cathedral.
The cardinal will also celebrate a Requiem Mass the next day at a nearby Catholic parish.
Dr John Ashdown-Hill, a historian who worked to identify Richard III’s bones, has previously called for a Catholic burial, saying: “There is a lot of evidence that Richard III had a very serious personal faith. If Richard III had not have died, maybe the Anglican church would never have existed.”