LONDON (NEWSnet/AP) — U.K.’s King Charles III stressed the importance of friendship and acts of caring in a recorded message Thursday in lieu of his attendance at a Maundy Thursday church service.

Queen Camilla represented her husband during the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral, presenting bags of specially minted coins to people being honored for public service.

The event takes place every year on the Thursday before Easter, known as Maundy Thursday in Britain.


The personal message from Charles comes after the recent announcements that both the king and the Princess of Wales had been diagnosed with cancer. While the message made no direct reference to the royals’ health problems, it marked the king’s first public comment since his daughter-in-law revealed she was undergoing chemotherapy.

Charles said that Jesus set an “example of how we should serve and care for each other,” and how as a nation “we need and benefit greatly from those who extend the hand of friendship to us, especially in a time of need.’’

The service, which dates back to the year 600, commemorates the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as an act of service and humility.

Sovereigns no longer wash the feet of the needy as they did in medieval times. Instead, Camilla presented purses filled with special coins, known as Maundy money, to 75 women and 75 men, a number dictated by the king’s age.

The service “reminds me of the pledge I made at the beginning of the Coronation Service — to follow Christ’s example ‘not to be served but to serve,’” Charles said in his message. “That I have always tried to do and continue to do, with my whole heart.”

The king stepped back from public appearances in early February, after announcing he would seek medical treatment for an undisclosed type of cancer. He has continued including regular meetings with the prime minister along with reviewing and signing government documents.

Despite his recorded message for Thursday's service, Buckingham Palace has previously said the king and Queen Camilla will attend Easter Sunday service at the chapel at Windsor Castle.

The Princess of Wales, wife of Prince William, announced last week that she, too, was being treated for an undisclosed type of cancer. The news came after the princess, formerly Kate Middleton, underwent abdominal surgery in January.

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