Pope, NZ Bishops mourn death of Queen Elizabeth II

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II talks with Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican in this April 3, 2014, file photo. Queen Elizabeth died Sept. 8, 2022, at the age of 96. (CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella, pool)

Pope Francis expressed his deep sadness upon learning the death of Queen Elizabeth II as he commended “her noble soul” to the mercy of God the Father.

Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland died on Thursday afternoon at Balmoral Castle, her residence in Scotland.

The Vatican News reported the Holy Father sent his condolences to King Charles III and the people of the United Kingdom and praised her “life of unstinting service to the good of the Nation and the Commonwealth”.

“I assure Your Majesty of my prayers that Almighty God will sustain you with his unfailing grace as you now take up your high responsibilities as King. Upon you and all who cherish the memory of your late mother, I invoke an abundance of divine blessings as a pledge of comfort and strength in the Lord,” the Pope said in his message to King Charles.

In New Zealand, Catholic bishops paid tribute to the Queen as they prayed for the repose of her soul.

In a statement released today, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference called the queen “a remarkable woman” who had “grace, warmth and commitment in equal measure”.

Queen Elizabeth II in Waitangi in December 1953.

“When Her Majesty’s reign began in 1952, New Zealand was virtually a monocultural nation which looked to Britain as ‘home’ and where most Māori, though admired, lived on the edges of Pakeha society. On her very first Royal Tour, in 1953, Māori leaders had to struggle to get Waitangi and Tūrangawaewae Marae at Ngāruawāhia, the home of Kingitanga, added to her itinerary,” they said in the statement.

“The Treaty of Waitangi then was regarded as irrelevant. Today it is central to political and public discourse, and the Māori renaissance which began in the 1970s has created extraordinary changes – welcomed by the Queen – in what has now become one of the most multicultural societies in the world. In 1995, during one of her 10 official visits to Aotearoa New Zealand, Her Majesty personally signed the Royal Assent to the historic Waikato-Tainui Treaty Settlement bill passed by Parliament that year.”

Wellington Cardinal John Dew said while her death was not a surprise, “it is still a shock and a time of sadness”.

“She has been our head of state for 70 years, a constant in our lives, a steady presence amid change, always at the service of the people.  She was a woman of faith, and in many of her messages especially at Christmas and during Covid it was very evident that she cared deeply about what was happening to people,” Cardinal Dew posted on his Facebook page.

“She said in her Christmas message for the year 2000: ‘For me, the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example’.”

Auckland Bishop Stephen Lowe posted the prayer of commendation with a photo of the Queen.

The English-born Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments Cardinal Arthur Roche also expressed “immense sadness” on learning of her death, the Vatican News reported.

“Her Christian faith, expressed so often in her annual Christmas messages and elsewhere, were moments of outstanding witness to her faith, the Gospel and the values of the common good, family life, peace and concord among peoples,” he said in a statement.

“Her graciousness and common touch, her statesmanship and love for her people in the many countries, cultures and religions of the Commonwealth have witnessed an unbroken and unique bond of dedication to the service of others. She has been greatly loved by all.”


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