Why Queen Elizabeth II Gave Cardinal an Invitation

Reinforces Ecumenism and Promotes National Unity, Biographer Says

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LONDON, DEC. 12, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Queen Elizabeth II´s historic invitation to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O´Connor to preach at her residence in Sandringham is an obvious sign of a decisive change in English society, the monarch´s best-known biographer said.



In an interview Dec. 9 with the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Ben Pimlott, rector of Goldsmiths College, said that the Church of England is no longer perceived as England´s religion, given the growth of Catholicism and other religions, such as Islam.

However, historian Pimlott said, "it is not true that Catholicism has replaced the Anglican Church."

Rather, he said, "British society has become very secularized, more than in the United States or other European countries, and religion is increasingly less relevant in people´s lives."

He added: "The majority of Englishmen still look, naturally, to the Church of England as a moral guide at key moments of life, such as marriage, children´s education and national mourning."

Yet, when questions arise on issues of bioethics, the BBC interviews the Catholic primate rather than the Anglican leaders, because "on these issues, in the moral area, the Catholic Church has a more defined line," Pimlott explained.

Regarding the unprecedented invitation of the queen to the archbishop of Westminster to preach in her residence, biographer Pimlott said that the gesture has two obvious connotations: the sovereign´s ecumenical sensitivity, and the desire to reinforce national unity.

"Let´s not forget that Northern Ireland, just a one-hour flight from London, is still bloodied by a conflict between Unionists and Republicans," he said. "All ecumenical progress in the United Kingdom has positive effects, also, on dialogue in Northern Ireland."