8th June 2016
Celebrating The Queen at the Holy See
Like other embassies and high commissions around the world, the British Embassy to the Holy See took the opportunity this week to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday. In traditional British fashion, our garden party was accompanied by a downpour of rain, but it didn’t appear to dampen the spirits of the many guests from across the Holy See community who celebrated with us, or prevent us launching 90 red, white and blue balloons to commemorate each year of her life. Cardinals and senior Holy See officials, including the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher attended. They were joined by other officials from across the Roman Curia, British members of religious congregations, colleges and other Rome-based offices, members of Catholic charities, journalists and representatives of the different churches in Rome and of other embassies to recognise the achievements of a remarkable monarch.
The point was that we were not just celebrating a birthday, but an exemplary model of service and duty. As we were celebrating, The Queen herself was hard at work in Wales, opening the Welsh Assembly and visiting a Brain Research Centre in Cardiff. It is normally considered rude to mention a woman’s age, but Her Majesty’s reign is now so replete with superlatives that I am sure she would not have minded the emphasis. And at our Holy See event, I took the opportunity to cite the extraordinary words she spoke at her very first Privy Council meeting, on 8 February 1952, that set the tone for what was to follow:
“By the sudden death of my dear father I am called upon to assume the duties and responsibilities of sovereignty .. my heart is too full for me to say more to you today than I shall always work, as my father did throughout his reign, to advance the happiness and prosperity of my peoples ..”
Pope Francis often emphasises service and duty. He does so especially in the context of the priestly vocation, but he also has a strong sense of our common responsibilities to our fellow men, our planet, and those less fortunate than ourselves. In a recent speech to Church deacons in the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Pope noted that the Catholic Church “lives and journeys in the midst of the people and in which the greatest is not the one who commands, but the one who serves”. We can all recognise this in The Queen. That is why her example continues to be such a powerful one, as much at the Holy See as in Britain or the other 15 countries of which she is Head of State.