The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has written to the Primates of the Anglican Communion and Moderators of the united Churches following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
In his letter, Archbishop Justin praised the late Queen as “a faithful Christian disciple”, and said: “Her Late Majesty lived out her faith every day of her life. Her trust in God and profound love for him was foundational in how she led her life – hour by hour, day by day.
“In Her Late Majesty’s 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.
“Her Late Majesty found great joy and fulfilment in the service of her people and her God ‘whose service is perfect freedom’ (BCP). For giving her whole life to us, and allowing her life of service to be an instrument of God’s peace among us, we owe Her Late Majesty a debt of gratitude beyond measure.”
As head of the royal family, Queen Elizabeth II played a role in more than just political affairs. She also helped lead the Church of England and held the title of “Defender of the Faith.”
Her duties included appointing archbishops, bishops and deans of the Church of England as advised by the prime minister. In 1970, she became the first sovereign to inaugurate and address the church’s general synod in person, a practice she continued every five years after diocesan elections.
Although British monarchs always worked closely with religious leaders, their formal religious role dates back to the Reformation period, when Henry VIII was given the “Defender of the Faith” title from the pope, who was pleased he had rejected Martin Luther’s teachings, according to Religion News Service.
According to sources, the British monarch retains constitutional authority in the established church but does not govern it.
Because of the important role faith played in her own life, Elizabeth worked to understand the role it played in others’ lives. She embraced opportunities to learn about non-Christian religions and boost acceptance of religious diversity.
The senior bishop in the Church of England, the Rev. Justin Welby, noted that Elizabeth’s “trust in God” was visible throughout her 70 years in power.
In recognition of this work and her many years of leadership, several faith leaders released statements about Elizabeth, including Pope Francis who sent his condolences to King Charles III and the people of the United Kingdom.
The Pope said he joins everyone who mourns her loss “in praying for the late Queen’s eternal rest, and in paying tribute to her life of unstinting service to the good of the Nation and the Commonwealth, her example of devotion to duty, her steadfast witness of faith in Jesus Christ and her firm hope in his promises.”