Queen Elizabeth II met five popes – kath.ch

Queen Elizabeth II is considered one of the last Christian monarchs in the Vatican. She was the only English queen in history to travel to Rome for the public and receive popes in her country.

Christian Lodge

One church leader congratulated another: when Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her platinum jubilee in 2022, Vatican greetings weren’t missing; Pope Francis sent his “warm regards and best wishes” in English. They met in person only once, namely in 2014; Before the Queen stops traveling abroad.


Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Francis on April 3, 2014 at the Vatican.

Elizabeth II met basically everyone who was interested. Of course, this also included the popes. Except for Paul VI. (1963-1978) and John Paul I (1978) met all the popes, both in Rome and in England.

First papal journey as a princess

As heir to the throne, she traveled to the Vatican accompanied by her late husband Philip, where she met Pope Pius XII. (1939-1958) in a private audience on April 13, 1951. Elizabeth and Philip are taken on a tour of the Apostolic Palace, and then priests and seminarians at English Catholic institutes give them a hip-hop trio.


1951: Before becoming queen, Elizabeth visited Pope Pius XII.  in Rome.

1951: Before becoming queen, Elizabeth visited Pope Pius XII. in Rome.

Back in England, there was some criticism of her pope’s visit as part of a state visit. It was the first time Elizabeth had faced criticism, especially in the press – and it wouldn’t be the last, as she was learning painfully.

As Queen before the Second Vatican Council

When she returned to Italy for a state visit ten years later, circumstances changed drastically. The princess became the queen. Pope is now John XXIII. (1958-1963), and a Second Vatican Council was imminent. On May 5, 1961, about 600 priests, seminarians and nuns from the Commonwealth of Nations gathered to celebrate the Queen at the Vatican.


May 5, 1961: Queen Elizabeth with Pope John XXIII.

May 5, 1961: Queen Elizabeth with Pope John XXIII.

The Vatican Church sang the English national anthem. The Queen spoke to the Pope in French, a language she was fluent in. At the end of the conversation, which lasted about half an hour, John XXIII humorously declared that the relationship between England and the Vatican had never been more cordial.


Pope John XXIII - here with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

Pope John XXIII – here with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

20 years passed before the next visit of the Queen of England. Now the Pole John Paul II sat on the papal throne. On October 17, 1980, the Pope’s planned visit to England in 1982 was one of the topics. To celebrate her first meeting with John Paul II in the Vatican, Elizabeth II returned to Rome after 20 years, on October 17 in the Holy Year 2000. John Paul II was an elderly patient who held the Queen’s hand affectionately.


October 17, 1980: Queen Elizabeth visits John Paul II.

October 17, 1980: Queen Elizabeth visits John Paul II.

2014 with Pope Francis

At the beginning of April 2014 her last time in the Vatican. Elizabeth II, who heads the Anglican Church, was accompanied by her husband, Philip. After the conversation, which lasted about 20 minutes, gifts were exchanged. For Prince George, the Queen’s not yet a year old grandson, Francis gave his visitors a kind of little orb, a ball of lapis lazuli with a cross on it. Not a bad choice considering that Prince George might one day be king.


September 16, 2010: Benedict XVI visits Queen Elizabeth at Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British Queen in Scotland.

September 16, 2010: Benedict XVI visits Queen Elizabeth at Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British Queen in Scotland.

The Queen herself hosted the Pope twice. John Paul II made a pastoral visit to the United Kingdom in 1982, becoming the first-ever bishop of Rome. His successor, Benedict XVI. (2005-2013) Arrived in the UK in September 2010, received by the Queen at her Scottish home, Holyrood House in Edinburgh. Compared to Benedict who was only a year younger than her, she spared no effort in her praise of the Catholic Church and the Vatican.

at eye level

All the Queen’s meetings with the popes were on the basis of friendly understanding, and mutual respect. Elizabeth II was not only the head of the Anglican Church – a task she took very seriously. She lived by her faith and drew strength from it. So I went to these meetings on an equal footing with the popes. (kna)


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