HM The Queen meets Pope Francis: Dr Rebecca Rist says on the surface relations seem at an all-time high, but dig a little deeper and issues arise
Release Date 03 April 2014
Below Dr Rebecca Rist, papal expert from the University of Reading, examines the historically rocky relationship between the Monarchy and the Vatican.
"This is a significant meeting between the Head of the Catholic Church and the Head of the Church of England. Encouragingly relations between the two are good. Indeed the papacy and the British monarchy are enjoying a similarly strong relationship."
The Falklands - A change of hat means a change of tack
"Francis has shown that he wishes to reach out to people of all faiths and to different branches of Christianity. His South American roots will not hinder his progress. British monarchs are used to dealing with ‘foreign' popes - indeed history has only seen one English pope, Nicholas Breakspear: Adrian IV (1154-1159). Elizabeth II will be no exception.
"In 2012, while archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis said that Britain had ‘usurped' the disputed islands from Argentina. Some have been disappointed that in his first year in office Francis has failed to firmly condemn the Argentinian takeover of the Falkland Islands in 1982.
"But it is all a question of hats. Now wearing the white (for a pope), rather than the red (for a cardinal) or violet (for an archbishop) zuchetto, Francis has to remain neutral on the issue and not to be seen as favouring either Argentina or Britain on the world stage."
The Monarchy and the Vatican seemingly on good terms...
"In 1985 Prince Charles and Princess Diana were received on a visit to Rome by John Paul II. They were subsequently invited to a papal private Mass in his chapel the next morning. (This did however spark rumours that the Queen forbade Charles to attend)
"Elizabeth has subsequently ‘recognised' her Catholic subjects by visiting Westminster Cathedral. A sea-change which is surely due in part to the decline of the Church of England in English public life and the increased profile of Catholicism in the United Kingdom.
"It is clear that the CoE and the Catholic Church recognise the need to work together, on not just doctrinal but also moral and ethical issues, to fight what both parties see as a growing tide of European secularisation."
...but rows over women bishops and the ‘Succession to the Crown Act 2013' highlight problems
"Thursday's meeting comes at a time when, on the surface, relations between the Catholic Church and the Church of England at an all-time high. But dig a little deeper and issues arise.
"Despite great improvements in relations there are still momentous hurdles to overcome. In recent years Rome has made it clear that there cannot be further formal ecumenical progress due to the Church of England's appointment of women priests and the likelihood of women bishops."
"The Succession to the Crown Act 2013, meaning marrying a Catholic will no longer disqualify a person from succeeding to the throne, also ruffled feathers. Prince Charles is famously said to have declared that he would like to be ‘defender of all faiths'. Yet although the Coronation of Prince Charles will probably feature a wide range of religions, including the Catholic faith, to reflect the UK's now diverse religious and ethnic culture, it will remain primarily and fundamentally a Church of England ceremony."
An historically rocky relationship
"In her 60-year plus reign, HM Queen Elizabeth II has met with three Popes: Benedict XVI (2005-2013) in 2010, John XXIII in 1961 and John Paul II (1978-2005) in 2000.
"Historically English monarchs and popes have had a rocky relationship, clashing over spheres of secular and spiritual influence. In the twelfth century Alexander III (1159-1181) quarrelled with Henry II over the legal rights of the English clergy which led to the Thomas Becket crisis.
"Henry VIII was condemned by Clement VII (1523-1534) for his divorce of Catherine of Aragon. This led to Henry's break with Rome.
"Pius V (1566-1572) subsequently excommunicated Elizabeth I in 1570 which contributed to official suspicion of the allegiances of Catholics, beginning long centuries of persecution and mistrust between Catholics and members of the Church of England. A situation that didn't improve until Catholic Emancipation during the late 18th century and early 19th century, when restrictions were lifted on British Catholics, the Test Acts and the penal laws.
"Leo XIII's (1878-1903) declaration that all Anglican ordinations are ‘absolutely null and utterly void' meant the frost returned to this lukewarm relationship. A thawing came at the creation of Vatican II called by John XXIII. This encouraged greater dialogue between Catholicism and other branches of Christianity, not least the Church of England."