As messages of condolence and remembrance on the death of Queen Elizabeth II continue to flood in from around the world, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, drew attention to the Queen’s personal faith — an aspect of her life that is sometimes overlooked.
“Not too many of [those messages] make reference to the fact that the Queen herself said that the rock and strength of her life was her Christian faith,” the Cardinal said in an interview with Vatican News. He noted that the Queen had said, “The teachings of Christ and my own accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life.”
Cardinal Nichols said, “if we so deeply appreciate the qualities that the Queen brought, qualities of wisdom, stability, openness, immense approachability, then we have to also remember their source and their inspiration.
“And I hope that as these days go by and as we reflect a little more deeply, the importance of that Christian faith that shaped her every single day will become clearer and clearer.”
The Cardinal Archbishop also noted the many changes that occurred in the more than 70 years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, pointing especially to improved ecumenical relations and the changing relationship between civil authorities and the Catholic Church.
“I think it’s maybe less widely understood, but Cardinal [Basil] Hume was the first Cardinal of Westminster diocese to receive a letter from Buckingham Palace which acknowledged his ecclesiastical title, which acknowledged him as Archbishop of Westminster,” Cardinal Nichols said.
He noted as well that it was only within the last few decades that civil law recognized the role of Catholic bishops in the administration of the affairs of their dioceses. “So in that sense,” he said, “but at a common level and at a structural, establishment level, [the Queen] has lived through and led remarkable changes.”
As people begin to grasp more deeply “the importance of the stability and openness” that the Queen personified, how we react to ongoing change “is probably the most important thing,” Cardinal Nichols said.
He said he believes King Charles III will seek “to continue to give strong witness to the importance of Christian faith.” In particular, the Cardinal noted that the new King is “a great champion of interfaith dialogue” and “a great champion of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.”
Cardinal Nichols added, “I think [King Charles] will have his own way of continuing this tradition of his mother, of being firmly and clearly of the Christian faith in a way that reflects… the renewal that we seek in our relationships and our service of society.”
With regard to the Catholic Church in the country, the Cardinal Archbishop said, “I think that the situation of the Church in this country is not weakened by the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.”
And, he added, “I think these are moments in which Christians will come together to pray and in which people of other faiths will find common standing with us in this recognition of the importance of faith in God as giving us the horizon, the foundations, and the guidance by which to live through changing times.”
Concluding the interview, Cardinal Nichols thanked Pope Francis for his “gracious message to our new Sovereign,” and assured the new King “of the regard and affection and prayer of the Catholics of this country and of many, many other people too.”
By Christopher Wells