By Solange De Santis
As plans for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, set for Sept. 19, progressed, the Christian faith that sustained her over her 70-year reign was remembered by many, not least by her heir, Britain’s new King Charles III.
In a message broadcast on Sept. 9, the day after his mother died, Charles referred in general and specific terms to “the Sovereign’s particular relationship and responsibility towards the Church of England — the Church in which my own faith is so deeply rooted.”
Charles now becomes Supreme Governor of the Church of England, but noted in his remarks that over the course of his mother’s reign, “we have seen our society become one of many cultures and many faiths. The institutions of the State have changed in turn.”
Noting the Queen’s “unswerving devotion,” Charles said that due to his faith and its values, “I have been brought up to cherish a sense of duty to others, and to hold in the greatest respect the precious traditions, freedoms, and responsibilities of our unique history and our system of parliamentary government.”
Queen Elizabeth openly referred to her faith over the years, often in her Christmas messages.
“At Christmas, our attention is drawn to the birth of a baby some two thousand years ago. It was the humblest of beginnings, and his parents, Joseph and Mary, did not think they were important,” she said in 2016.
“Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe,” she said.
After the queen’s death, the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said in a video message that the queen had been “an extraordinary example of a life lived in the service of others. Under the intense and relentless scrutiny of ever-vigilant media, she has demonstrated a consistency of character, a commitment to service, a concern for others, and a clear, deep Christian faith.”
She had not hid her faith, Mullally said. “On contrary, it was the engine of her devotion to service.”
Mullally referred to Elizabeth’s inclusive approach, adding, “She was the Head of the Church, yet, in her speeches, she never tells anyone to go to church. Rather, she pointed to Jesus and how he expanded her capacity to love people with different beliefs. Overall, her approach has been testimonial, not argumentative. She told the world about the inspiration Jesus had been for her in her life and left others to decide if they were interested in being inspired themselves.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby noted that the queen “lived out her faith every day of her life. Her trust in God and profound love for God was foundational in how she led her life – hour by hour, day by day. In [her] life, we saw what it means to receive the gift of life we have been given by God and – through patient, humble, selfless service – share it as a gift to others.”
On Sept. 14, after a blessing by Welby, the queen will lie in state in Westminster Hall until the morning of the funeral, when her coffin will be moved to nearby Westminster Abbey for the service.