2016-04-21 12:51:00

Queen Elizabeth and the Popes

(Vatican Radio) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II turned ninety on Thursday. The last time she came to the Vatican it was to meet Pope Francis together with her husband Prince Philip on the 3rd of April 2014. It was an informal meeting which  marked her first encounter with this Pope. One which was a far cry from the formality of her  first encounter with a  Pope in the Vatican.

To mark this special birthday Veronica Scarisbrick steps back in time and shares with you echoes of the first visits of the Queen to the Vatican:

The first time Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II crossed the threshold of the Vatican it was 1951, she was still a Princess and the Pope to receive her in audience was Pius XII. Former Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor was studying for the priesthood at the Venerable English College at the time and shares his memories of this special moment with Philippa Hitchen: “When I met her afterwards she said she was quite terrified, Buckingham Palace is all very well but it doesn't compare with the Vatican..."

The second time she was received in audience by a Roman Pontiff it was 1961, this time the Pope was Saint John XXIII.  Rosminian Father John Charles-Roux once shared with Veronica Scarisbrick his memories of that event which took place in the context of the renaissance splendour of the papal court of the time. A splendour which according to him Pope John seemed to enjoy as he says: "...he used the room of the Tronetto ' which Pius XII never used...when he received the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh there was a display of the court that amazed all the English people. The Queen and the Duke came back absolutely thrilled by the display of that Renaissance Court in its full splendour..."

In this programme Veronica Scarisbrick also brings you an article written by the late John Grigg, then still Lord Altrincham who on the contrary describes an audience with John XXIII as more homely than regal: "Pope John XXIII makes even an audience in Saint Peter's seem like an intimate family occasion, a party thrown by a benign old man for the innumerable children who look for security, comfort and guidance. Pope John has the demeanor of a good country priest with bubbling zest and bonhomie with no airs or graces. Borne in the 'sedia' with thousands of applauding votaries he responds to their enthusiasm in kind. They love him, he obviously loves them.....He does not suggest by his manner that he is any nearer to the heavenly mysteries than they are. He settles back comfortably in his chair and talks to the vast crowd around him for all the world as if he were talking to one old friend by his fire side. this spontaneity warms the heart as studied and exalted rhetoric never can..."




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