Britain's Prince William, the future Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, only goes to church a "handful" of times a year, a newspaper in the U.K. reports.
British newspaper Daily Mail quotes sources as saying that William and his wife, Kate, "rarely, if ever" go to church privately on a Sunday morning, or indeed at any other time in the week. William, who is 30 years old and was confirmed into the Anglican faith in 1997, attends worship services only a "handful" of times each year, the newspaper said. When he does it is mostly connected with official engagements or on special occasions in the Christian calendar such as Christmas, as well as weddings and christenings.
Queen Elizabeth II, William's grandmother, is a devout Christian, with a deep sense of religious duty, who attends church on a weekly basis. William's father, Charles, Prince of Wales, is also known as a regular churchgoer, though he is also interested in other faiths such as Islam.
Prince William appears to be like other British men his age, barely 8 percent of whom attend church regularly. According to a survey by Christian charity Tearfund, the U.K. is among Europe's four least observant counties. Two thirds of those polled had not been to church in the past year, except for baptisms, weddings or funerals, although 53 percent still identified themselves as Christian.
William's aides say the prince is a dedicated Christian despite his lack of regular attendance. "The Duke of Cambridge is a committed Anglican and has a strong personal faith." They also pointed out that William and his wife wrote a prayer for their wedding service as evidence of his "continued faith" since his confirmation.
The prince – who is second in the line of succession, behind his father, to the thrones of sixteen independent sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms – has been involved in humanitarian and environmental causes.
William became a patron of the Tusk Trust, a charity that works in the areas of conservation of wildlife and community development across Africa, in 2005. In 2010, he became a patron of 100 Women in Hedge Funds Philanthropic Initiatives. In March 2011, William and Catherine set up a gift fund held by The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry to allow well-wishers who want to give them a wedding gift to donate money to charities instead.
The British monarch has the constitutional title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The church's canon law states, "We acknowledge that the Queen's most excellent Majesty, acting according to the laws of the realm, is the highest power under God in this kingdom, and has supreme authority over all persons in all causes, as well ecclesiastical as civil." In practice this power is often exercised through parliament and the Prime Minister.
While William will likely uphold his responsibilities when he accedes to the throne, his decision not to worship regularly might add fuel to the fire of those who argue that the church has little relevance in Britain today, the newspaper remarked.