The evening that I heard Her Majesty the Queen had died, I was on my own in a hotel room in Karlsruhe, Germany. The 10-day Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) had just come to an end. I wondered about the various resonances.
The Queen’s family is of partly German descent. However, George V had declared that his House and Family should be styled “Windsor” as a result of First World War anti-German sentiment. And the centre of Karlsruhe was largely reduced to rubble by allied bombing in the Second World War. Yet in 2022, I, along with other Conference delegates had been most warmly welcomed to Karlsruhe by the Lord Mayor, regional ministers and the Federal President Steinmeier.
The transformation in Anglo-German relations is something in which the Queen, herself, played a significant role. Her visit to Germany in 1965 was the culmination of a 20-year process of post-war reconciliation. In offering condolences, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said: “Her commitment to German-British reconciliation after the horrors of World Word 2 will remain unforgotten.” And President Walter Steinmeier praised her 1965 visit as an “invaluably important signal of reconciliation after two devastating world wars”.
So, I am bold enough to hope that the Queen might have been pleased and proud that one of her bishops was in Germany on the day she died. And not just anywhere in Germany, but in Karlsruhe, which is the seat of the German Federal Constitutional Court and seat of the highest court of appeal. It is in Karlsruhe, that modern Germany’s commitment to justice and human rights is maintained.
Meanwhile, the WCC is a body that is committed to unity and reconciliation. In today’s global Church, the biggest differences are not so much doctrinal as social and economic. Whether you are a Christian in South Sudan or South Carolina matters much more for your experience and outlook than some of the finer points of Christian belief. So, in its deliberations, the WCC urged the worldwide church to join in a “pilgrimage of justice, reconciliation and unity”.
I wondered: would Her Majesty the Queen have approved of the WCC? I’m sure that there are plenty of things about this rather cumbersome body that would irritate her, at least in private. But the impulse towards Christian unity is something in which she certainly believed strongly. I remember her urging unity both within the Church of England and with other Christian churches in an address at the opening of the General Synod in 2015, when she quoted from St. Paul “as ambassadors for Christ [we] are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation”.
She herself was an ambassador par excellence for Christ’s reconciliation and healing. I think of her historic attendance at a Catholic service at Westminster Cathedral in 1995, the first British monarch to attend Roman Catholic worship in 400 years. Her four-day visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, the first UK monarch to visit the independent state – was described by the then President Mary McAleese as ‘magical’.
There is one particular element of this reconciling ministry for which our diocese has cause to be especially grateful. In 1994, she visited St Andrew’s Moscow, which had been confiscated by the Communists for use as a recording studio, and as a result the then President Yeltsin signed an order to return the property to religious use.
Her Majesty the Queen was truly an agent for peace and reconciliation on the global stage, and perhaps in Europe in particular. I was especially touched by the condolences expressed by President Macron of France:
“We are grateful for her deep affection for France: Elizabeth II mastered our language, loved our culture and touched our hearts…from her coronation on, she knew and spoke with all our presidents. No other country had the privilege of welcoming her as many times as we did.”
Over the last few days, I and others have received several expressions of condolence addressed to me and to our diocese. They are moving tributes to a deeply loved and respected Queen. Here are a few of them.
From Laurent Ulrich, Archbishop of Paris
L’archevêque de Paris, s’associe à la peine de tous les fidèles de l’Eglise d’Angleterre, particulièrement ceux du diocèse en Europe qui vivent dans l’archidiaconé de France.
La Reine Élizabeth est populaire en France comme dans le reste du monde, comme chrétiens, nous sommes reconnaissants pour son zèle exercé dans sa charge de chef spirituel de l’Eglise d’Angleterre. Elle a assumé cette fonction avec fidélité tout en respectant les institutions épiscopales et synodales de l’Eglise d’Angleterre. En exerçant ses prérogatives religieuses avec sagesse et constance, elle a servi l’Eglise d’Angleterre et donné ainsi un authentique témoignage de Foi.
Nous voulons exprimer notre amitié et notre compassion à tous les membres du clergé qui servent dans notre pays et aux fidèles de l’Eglise d’Angleterre et de la Communion Anglicane, qui conformément à leur charisme s’efforcent de travailler à la réunion de toute l’Eglise dans une communion de foi et d’amour, dans les groupes œcuméniques.
Recevez Monseigneur, l’expression de ma fraternelle amitié dans Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, roi du ciel et de la terre.”
The Archbishop of Paris is united in grief with all the faithful of the Church of England, in particular those of the Diocese in Europe living in the Archdeaconry of France.
Queen Elizabeth was well-loved in France and throughout the world. As Christians, we are grateful for the zeal with which she exercised her role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. She fulfilled this function faithfully, fully respecting the episcopal and synodical institutions of the Church of England. She carried out her religious duties with wisdom and constancy, and in doing so, she both served the Church of England well, and bore witness to the Faith.
We wish to express our friendship and sympathy to the clergy who serve in this country, and to the faithful of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion who are called to work ecumenically for the unity of the Church in one communion of faith and love.
Receive, dear Bishop, our fraternal greetings in Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of Heaven and Earth.)
From Martin Kmetec, Archbishop of Izmir to Canon James Buxton
“Dear Father James,
In the name of Catholic Church in Turkey and in my personal name I would like to join all who mourn the loss of Queen Elisabeth who for 70 years, served as the constitutional monarch of the United Kingdom expressing my condolences to your People, to the Church of England and to your local Community in Izmir. May her example of unfailing and long service be the encouragement for all those who strive for a better world. May the Risen Lord give her everlasting life in his eternal presence!”
From the President (Revd. Christian Krieger) and General Secretary (Dr. Jørgen Sørensen) to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Diocese in Europe
Today with our Anglican brothers and sisters and beyond, we mourn the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Europe’s longest reigning monarch, conveying our prayers.
We also offer our sincere condolences to the people of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the entire world as we mourn the loss of a great world leader.
Together with the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, we celebrate her life and legacy, especially the hope she offered to the world, deeply rooted in faith.
Queen Elizabeth openly shared with the world her devotion to God, highlighting Christian values in her messages to all people, including those of other faiths.
May she rest in peace and rise in glory.
We will ensure that all these messages are forwarded to Buckingham Palace along with many others that we are receiving including any left as comments on this blogpost. Over the weekend many of our chaplaincies across the diocese have opened books of condolence. All are welcome to sign these in our chaplaincies. The Church of England has also opened a digital condolence book here.