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In matters of religion, Diana was an unorthodox believer

September 6, 1997

LONDON (AP) _ Princess Diana, whose funeral showed the Church of England at its solemnest and most elegant, was an unorthodox believer who sought comfort from psychics, astrologers and new-age thinkers.

Just a few weeks ago, she made a highly publicized helicopter trip with her companion, Dodi Fayed, to visit clairvoyant Rita Rogers at her northern England home in Chesterfield.

Although she was raised in the official Anglican church, in keeping with her position as the daughter of an earl, Diana appeared to dislike its formality.

Diana’s former husband, Prince Charles, was also a religious adventurer, showing a keen interest in eastern religions and suggesting that as king he would want to be a ``defender of faith″ rather than ``defender of the faith.″

The former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Runcie, who officiated at Diana and Charles’ wedding in 1981, recalled having a private communion service with them before they were wed.

``Charles encouraged her a lot when she looked a little anxious and wan about it,″ he said in a taped conversation with biographer Humphrey Carpenter.

Later, when Diana encountered problems in her marriage, Charles called Runcie and invited him to have lunch with them, the former archbishop recalled.

The invitation was based on Charles’ view that, according to Runcie, ``It’s been rather a lot for Diana, because religion hasn’t stuck much with her. And we feel we ought to mention it to you, because you married us.″

``I then gave her what amounted to two or three not very successful confirmation talks. That’s what he thought she needed: a bit of instruction. What I quickly saw she needed was some encouragement and some, `Are you all right girl?,‴ Runcie said.

Author Andrew Morton, whose biography was tacitly approved by Diana and gave the first glimpse inside her troubled marriage, said she had a ``profound sense of destiny,″ and believed she had been singled out for a special role working for the sick, the dying and the distressed.

Morton quoted Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, as saying: ``She strikes me as an immensely Christian figure and she has the strength which I think true Christians have and the direction in her life which others can envy; that sureness of her purpose and the strength of her character and position to do an enormous amount of good.″

In 1988, Diana became good friends with Mara and Lorenzo Berni, who run the fashionable San Lorenzo restaurant in Knightsbridge. According to Morton, they encouraged her interest in astrology, tarot cards ``and other realms of alternative metaphysics such as clairvoyance and hypnotism.″

At the same time, Diana met Debbie Frank, who was her personal astrologer for the last eight years.

``She truly believed in astrology, and believed it informed her,″ Frank wrote in The Sun.

``Although I would never have predicted her death we did talk about death a great deal. She said to me that only when people were dying could they be absolutely honest,″ Frank said.

``She truly felt alive being included in the intimate situations surrounding the dying, where all pretense is gone. She frequently said she felt her father was with her and watching over her. She also believed that in death people became even more free to help from beyond,″ Frank said.

``Diana was not afraid of death and not afraid to cut ties and move on in life.″

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