“A dedicated Sovereign who exercised wise leadership”, “a great woman, a kind and courageous one”, “a patron of countless causes, a counsellor to her ministers”: with these words, Cardinal Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, remembered the late sovereign of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away in Balmoral on 8 September 2022. The British Cardinal celebrated a memorial Mass for the late monarch in Rome’s Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, on Wednesday morning, 28 September. Among the concelebrants were Cardinal James Michael Harvey, Archpriest of the Basilica; Cardinal George Pell; and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations.
“Despite all her many achievements throughout her seventy years as Sovereign”, said Cardinal Roche in his homily, “it was the public discourse on faith which emerged at her death that repeatedly captured the kernel of what it was that inspired and directed her life”. Elizabeth II “built her life upon the truths and values that are found in the life of Christ: the mystery of God-made-man, of the power of the love of God to overcome even death, of the great dignity of every person, of hope beyond despair”. It’s a matter of “truths and values”, stressed the Cardinal, which “are like a code”, like “clues as to how we should aspire to deal with reality — keys to something very powerful that leads to true greatness of spirit and generosity of heart in the service of others”. The late sovereign herself, in her Christmas address of 2014, said, “Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none”.
The Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments also turned his thoughts to “the vast numbers of people who lined the streets in silence and endured the queues to pay homage” to the Queen, “each with their own memories, their own stories to tell, their fond recollections and their gratitude for a life well lived and lived to the full in their service”.
The Cardinal also noted the significance of the date of the Queen’s death: 8 September, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “A coincidence that was not without profound significance”, he explained. “In Catholic tradition, we speak of the day of our death as the dies natalis — of being born into eternal life. In God’s providence it is surely a sign of special favour for someone who had given herself over to the service of others to die on a feast of the one who herself gave over her life to bring Christ, the King of kings into the world”. Then the Cardinal affirmed that “for the Queen there was no dichotomy between the faith she professed and what she was as Queen and head of so many nations”, because the greatness of her statesmanship was precisely that “of expanding to the size of Christ instead of shrinking to the size of self — looking at reality through the perspective given to us by God — and facing it with faith”. “We loved her much and we shall miss her dearly”, concluded Cardinal Roche. “May she now, after a life of faith well lived and work so well done, rest in peace”.
The memorial Mass was organized by the British, Canadian and Australian Embassies to the Holy See. Among the many diplomatic representatives in attendance was British Ambassador Christopher John Trott, who at the end of the celebration read a prayer by Saint John Henry Newman, while the sound of bagpipes accompanied the final procession.