Tears flow as Prince asks for forgiveness at the palace
The rattle of flip-up seats filled the Holmesdale Road Stand at Selhurst Park this week (Tue 9 Dec) but, for once, it wasn't a footballer bearing down on goal which caused the stir but one man's humble appeal for forgiveness.
Prince Philip Kiril of Prussia, the great-great grandson of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II (who signed the papers sanctioning war in 1914), recounted his relative's actions – a decision which cost millions of lives over the following four years.
'My great-great-grandfather believed in God but he didn't have the courage to tell those who wanted war to go away,' said Prince Philip. 'I'm here to ask for forgiveness for his weakness, for the inaction and action of my relative. Here I stand, to ask you: "Could you, would you forgive that, please?"'
The entire audience at Crystal Palace stood and clapped for over a minute.
'I found myself in tears and didn’t know why,' said a member of the audience afterwards.
'I just wanted to express thanks to Prince Philip for coming, and for his message of peace and forgiveness,' said another. 'It was the most moving service my family has ever attended.'
'One of most moving carol services I've ever been to,' said yet another. 'The first was in Bethlehem!'
The crowd, representing football fans and church members from across south London, had ventured out in driving wind and rain to commemorate 'The Silent Night of World War One', an historic carol service recalling the famous truce of Christmas 1914. Soldiers of both sides met in no man's land, sang carols, exchanged gifts and even played football.
Among many memorable contributions were renditions by the renowned Croydon Seventh Day Adventist Gospel Choir, Archbishop Tenison's School Choir and Croydon Citadel Salvation Army brass band. Some powerful dramatic pieces from Lantern Theatre Company reflected conditions in the trenches a century ago. Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock read the Christmas lesson from Luke's Gospel.
To conclude, Prince Philip led the communal singing of Silent Night, soloing on the first verse in German.
Club chaplain Chris Roe said: 'It's really powerful when two organisations that have such unique abilities to gather people together – the Church and local football club – combine to uplift the community. Silent Night of World War One was a wonderful and moving event.'
Special thanks to Naomi, Emma, Kim, Marty and Jenny of Fusion Y&C Croydon & Emerge Management who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to put on the event.