The Queen meets someone she likes
THE QUEEN'S reception of the Pope at Buckingham Palace, in the early afternoon of his first day in Britain, did, of course, make history. Nothing precisely like it had ever happened, even before the English Crown broke with the Papacy in the days of Henry VIII. But quite apart from this, the meeting had aspects that distinguished it noticeably from happenings that might loosely be regarded as in a similar category — for example, the courtesy calls sometimes made on the Queen by Heads of foreign friendly states who are in Britain for some, perhaps purely private, reason, but not making one of those formal State visits for which the Queen is the hostess on behalf of her people.
When I went to the Palace towards the end of March to make enquiries about the likely arrangements for the , Pope's arrival there, it was rather soon for me to be told anything officially, and, indeed, plans were not yet cornplete. But it was clear that, at that time, the visit was being seen as a courtesy call from a Head of State. The situation, it occurred to me, might be slightly complicated by the fact that, just about then, the Pope's representation in Britain was being upgraded.
Archbishop Bruno Heim, who had been Apostolic Delegate to Great Britian, the Holy See's representative for the Cittholic community there, had become a fully-fledged diplomat, accredited, as Pro-Nuncio, to the Court of St James. He represents the Holy See — that is, the Pope as exercising a spiritual jurisdiction, a much larger concept than his status as monarch of the minute territory, the Vatican Ctiy State, over which John Paul II maintains temporal sovereignty. In what role would the Pope be calling?
The Papacy was a good deal in people's minds at the time at the Palace, because Archbishop Heim was due to make his first official call there to present his credentials in his new capacity, with all the ancient trimmings, including arrival in one of the Royal, horse-drawn carriages. It seemed to me that, although this was inevitably_ to_ be_ something rather formal, the Pope's own visit was being ,envisaged as an essentially friendly affair. That is what it clearly turned out to be on Friday. Just the same, it seems to me that underlying matters of protocol had cleared themselves up in the most interesting way. It is known that the Queen's first intention had been to ask the Pope to lunch: but the Palace was made aware that this is not his usual practice when visiting as Head of State. One can see why. He greatly respects the Queen, and it has become evident that he also likes her enormously as a person. But one can think of a number of Heads of State— President Galtieri, perhaps? — whose luncheon guest he would prefer not to be. It could, strangely enough, be held that it was this unpleasing President's launching of a war against Britain that changed the precise status of the Pope's call on the Queen. It seems that because of the even greater stress laid on the pruely pastoral nature of the papal visit, as a result of the South Atlantic conflict, the Pope called on the Queen essentially in her capacity as supereme governor of the Church of England. So, presumably, he was himself there, not as monarch of the tiny Vatican City, but as Head of the Universal Church. It was a meeting of religious leaders, and acquired a fascinating ecumenical dimension, in which the excommunication of an earlier Elizabeth by another Pope became irrelevant.
Above all this, however, the outstanding thing about the Pope's call on the Queen was its extreme informality and friendliness. For the Press, the Palace made it what journalists' jargon describes as a "photo-call", which means that photographers would be given the chance to take pictures, but not much would be said to reporters. But even the pictures indicate how friendly the half-hour meeting was. Most of the "still" shots show that the smiles were something more than the accepted kind in which important people say "Cheese" to the cameras. The Pope looked fatherly, genuinely affectionate. The Queen has a whole
raIic of absolutely charming smiles Inch are fully very occasionally forced, but those whose job it is to follow her around on her Royal occasions get to know which of them is which. The one she seemed to me to be giving the Pope was the rather giggly one which often appears whe she is delighted and amused in the company of people she knows and likes.
The Queen and the Pope have met before, and it is known that each developed a personal regard for the other. It is probably necessary to stress, lest the "No-Popery" fanatics start imperilling thier blood pressures, that the Queen's liking for the Pope does seem to be purely personal. I understand that, as an Anglican, she veers somewhat towards the Evangelical side. She and the Duke went to see the Pope at the Vatican in October, 1980, and at first there was a bit of starch there, because Vatican protocal for the reception of a Head of State tends to be stiff, and fills about 16 pages of instructions. But the private conversation to which all the splendid nonsense led was said to have been very amicable indeed. So it seems to have been at Buckingham Palace in Friday's Scheduled twentyminutes meeting that stretched to hall an hour.
I'm told the meeting took place in the 1844 room, as it is called, one o ground floor audience chambers. which is very grand and elegant, but also comfortable. The Queen pre sented the Pope with a facsimile of : 15th-century Book of Hours. The fighting in the South Atlantic di come up in the conversation but in very personal way, with the Pop expressing his concern for the fact tha Prince Andrew was out there as : helicopter pilot with the Task Force "God bless your son," the Pope w heard to say. As he left, the Quee waved to him from the steps of th Palace's Grand Entrance.
The Pope's later meeting with th Prince of Wales, at Canterbury, wa not in the programme as originall announced. Apparently it was fitted i at the Prince's request. The Pope an he met in a room at the Deanery, an TV viewers saw them briefly, smilin and chatting, side by side, on a sof and heard the Pope refer to his call o the Queen. The_Prince was present the Cathedral throughout the service