Church of England pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth's witness and legacy of faith
Anglican Chaplain and Area Dean of Italy, Reverend Jules Cave Bergquist, reflects on Queen Elizabeth’s testimony of Christian faith and on how she embraced her role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith as a deeply felt mission.
When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1952, she vowed to commit her life to service to God and the people through sacred promises. The titles she received as Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England indicate that she was endowed with a constitutional role regarding the established Church of England, which goes hand-in-hand with that of the bishops, guided by her Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who effectively govern the Church.
In his statement upon the death of Queen Elizabeth, Archbishop Justin Welby dwelled on how, “As a faithful Christian disciple, and also Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she lived out her faith every day of her life," and how "Her trust in God and profound love for God was foundational in how she led her life – hour by hour, day by day.”
“In The Late Queen’s life,” he said, “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.”
One of the representatives of the Anglican Communion in Italy is Reverend Jules Cave Bergquist, Chaplain of the Anglican Church in Naples, Bari, Sorrento and Capri and Anglican Area Dean of Italy. Speaking to Vatican News, she commented on Archbishop Welby’s words of tribute.
Regarding the Archbishop’s description of extraordinary dedication, of the way she lived out her faith every day and of her “patient, humble, selfless service”, Revd Bergquist recalled the memorable speech the then-Princess Elizabeth gave on her 21st birthday, promising to devote her life to the service of all British subjects “and to the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
Building a Family of Nations
“She has kept that promise since she made it when she was 21,” she says, and “as the years have gone by, she has known how to help that family of imperial nations transform itself into the Commonwealth. So no longer an empire, but a family of nations, many of which are now independent but have a shared history as part of the old British Empire.”
“The Queen has known how to help that process to happen with intelligence and with a great spirit of service.”
A legacy for all people of faith
The legacy she leaves, “not just to the Church of England and to the Anglican Church, but to the whole world and to all people of faith”, is the testimony of her own faith, Revd Bergquist insists, noting that the Queen made no secret of her faith, taking every opportunity to talk about her faith throughout her life.
“She is known to go to church every Sunday and in other occasions, she has Royal Chapels in all of her palaces, she has a whole group of chaplains - not only to take services - but also to give her spiritual advice. And whenever she's had to give a speech, on television or on radio to her people, either at Christmas or in other moments of crisis, she's always talked about her own faith,” she explained.
“She has never let a moment escape her, to speak of her own faith and the comfort and sustenance that it gives her. And she has transmitted the importance of faith to those who come after her.”
Defender of the Faith
Queen Elizabeth has made sure, she added, that faith has been passed on to the newer generations of the Royal Family and with determination and coherence, she made the title of “Defender of the Faith” her own.
“That was a title given to Henry VIII by the Pope as a gift for his Defense of the Seven Sacraments,” a title that has been transmitted to every monarch since Henry, the Reverend explains, “and she has made it her own.”
“She has made sure that she has defended the faith, the Christian faith in her realm, and she has also made sure that those who are not of the Anglican faith are at liberty to worship in their own way.”
Supreme Governor of the Church of England
“So, while she is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she has also been an encourager of the Christian faith outside of that Church,” noted Revd Bergquist.
“Many people ask me whether the Queen is the Head of my Church? And I say: No, no, Jesus is the Head of our Church”, she said, explaining that under Jesus, we all have different systems of governance.
In the case of the Anglican Church, she added, the Queen - as Supreme Governor - does not tell the Church what to do or people what to believe: her role is to provide bishops to govern the Church of England.
“That is how she, as Queen, lives out, her mission to protect the faith. But she is also an example to others, because she does have a very strong personal faith and has always made that clear.”
A legacy that will live on
Reverend Jules Cave Bergquist said she never met the Queen personally, but did met her sister, the late Princess Margaret, and also Prince Charles, who are both people she describes as being of very great faith.
Recalling the man who is now King Charles III, she said, “he is an interesting man, always curious to know things, to meet people, to do the right thing.”
“He is very much known in England as someone who has always championed sustainable development and in particular in agriculture, even before it became popular,” she said, and “he is also very interested in faith and in religion.”
Revd Bergquist concluded by expressing her opinion that the new King has a deep understanding of the Royal title “Defender of the Faith” and said she is certain he will want to continue to defend religious freedom, upholding his mother’s legacy and attitude towards other Churches and other religions, and safeguarding the liberty of worship in his realm and in the United Kingdom.
Francesca Sabatinelli & Linda Bordoni