Queen meets Pope Francis, with another outward innovation
Just as she had done in 1980:
And when meeting Pope John XXIII in 1961:
And when meeting Pope Pius XII in 1951:
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother obliged in 1959:
As did Diana, Princess of Wales in 1985:
Even Margaret Thatcher wore a black mantilla when she met Pope Paul VI in 1977:
And when she met Pope John Paul II in 1980:
And when she met Pope Benedict XVI in 2009:
But on 3rd March 2014, Pope Francis made no such demand of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England:
Some may consider this utterly unimportant and of no significance whatsoever. But it is not without symbolic meaning: this new head of the Church of Rome appears to have rather more respect for the historic and theological status of the Church of England. Indeed, unlike his predecessor, now Pope Emeritus, Pope Francis seems to acknowledge that Her Majesty is Supreme Governor of a sister church and not a mere "ecclesial community" (ie a non-church), as Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in Dominus Iesus in 2000 - a view he reiterated as Pope Benedict XVI in 2007:
..it is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of “Church” could possibly be attributed to them, given that they do not accept the theological notion of the Church in the Catholic sense and that they lack elements considered essential to the Catholic Church.The Church of England is, of course, both Catholic and Reformed. Under Pope Francis, we are clearly moving toward a new era of ecumenism; perhaps toward acknowledgment of the validity of Anglican orders and recognition of a true episcopate in apostolic succession. Maybe even (eventually) toward a shared Eucharist.
In saying this, however, it must be remembered that these said ecclesial Communities, by virtue of the diverse elements of sanctification and truth really present in them, undoubtedly possess as such an ecclesial character and consequently a salvific significance.
The Queen dressed in lilac and not black means nothing to many, but to those who have eyes these are nuanced developments and very steady increments. Her visit to the Vatican was just one in a long line of Royal-Papal encounters since the Reformation:
29 April 1903 – King Edward VII met Pope Leo XIII.
1918 – Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and then Duke of Windsor) met Pope Benedict XV.
1923 – King George V and Queen Mary met Pope Pius XI.
10 May 1949 – Princess Margaret met Pope Pius XII.
13 April 1951 - Princess Elizabeth (now Queen) and the Duke of Edinburgh met Pope Pius XII.
23 April 1959 - Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret met Pope John XXIII.
5 May 1961 - The Queen met Pope John XXIII.
17 October 1980 - The Queen met Pope John Paul II.
29 August 1985 - Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, met Pope John Paul II.
9 December 1985 - Prince and Princess Michael of Kent met Pope John Paul II.
10 April 1990 - The Duke of Edinburgh met Pope John Paul II.
3 November 1994 - The Duchess of Kent met Pope John Paul II.
17 October 2000 - The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh met Pope John Paul II.
27 April 2009 – Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall met Pope Benedict XVI.
There are still one or two apparently insurmountable hurdles in the path to Christian unity. But what are centuries to God?