Historic moment as HE Cardinal Vincent Nichols takes part in Funeral Service of HM the Queen

The participation of HE Cardinal Vincent Nichols in the funeral service of Queen Elizabeth II has been hailed as an indication of openness of the British Royal family to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.

It is thought by some observers that the involvement of Cardinal Nichols represents the first time for possibly hundreds of years that a cardinal or Catholic bishop has taken a role in a royal funeral.

His Eminence was one of a number of non-Anglican Christian leaders asked to lead the congregation in prayers for the queen during the state funeral in Westminster Abbey.

The cardinal expressed thanks for the monarch’s “commitment to the Commonwealth throughout her reign” and prayed for a “spirit of mutual honour and respect” and that figures in authority “may promote justice and the common good.”

Among prominent Catholics in attendance were Archbishop Leo Cushley of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, representing the Catholics of Scotland; Archbishop Mark O’Toole of Cardiff, the most senior Catholic figure in Wales; and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Liverpool-born foreign minister, representing Pope Francis.

Gavin Ashenden, a former Anglican royal chaplain to Queen Elizabeth who became a Catholic in 2019, said no Catholic leaders were involved in the funeral of the King George VI, the queen’s father, in 1952.

He said that, for him, “seeing Cardinal Nichols standing by the high altar dressed as a cardinal during the queen’s funeral service gave birth to a complex mixture of emotions, amongst which joy and nostalgia were combined.”

The last British Catholic monarch was King James II, who died in France in 1701 after he was deposed in a coup in 1688.

His elder brother, King Charles II, converted to the Catholic faith on his deathbed in 1685, and in the previous century, Queen Mary I, the eldest daughter of King Henry VIII, used her five-year reign in the 1550s to force England to return to the Catholic faith.

Since the 18th century, all British monarchs have been obliged, under oath, to be Anglicans and to discharge the office of the supreme governor of the Church of England.

Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, were interested in ecumenism and welcomed St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to the U.K.

On 16th September, during a reception for religious leaders at Buckingham Palace, King Charles III signalled that he would continue to pursue dialogue.

He said he recognised his “duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practice through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals.”

The king said: “The beliefs that flourish in, and contribute to, our richly diverse society differ. They, and our society, can only thrive through a clear collective commitment to those vital principles of freedom of conscience, generosity of spirit and care for others which are, to me, the essence of our nationhood.

“I am determined, as king, to preserve and promote those principles across all communities, and for all beliefs, with all my heart,” he said.

Commentators are predicting that the coronation of Charles in 2023 is likely to include members of non-Anglican churches and possibly other faiths for the first time.

The funeral of Queen Elizabeth, 96, who died on 8th September after a 70-year reign, brings to a close 11 days of official mourning in the U.K.



Let us give thanks for Queen Elizabeth’s commitment to the Commonwealth throughout her reign, for her service and dedication to its peoples, and for the rich bonds of unity and mutual support she sustained. Almighty and everlasting God, hear our prayer for the Commonwealth, and grant it the guidance of thy wisdom. Inspire those in authority, that they may promote justice and the common good; give to all its citizens the spirit of mutual honour and respect; and grant to us all grace to strive for the establishment of righteousness and peace; for the honour of thy name. Amen.

One thought on “Historic moment as HE Cardinal Vincent Nichols takes part in Funeral Service of HM the Queen

  • September 22, 2022 at 11:32 am

    I am sure that the Archbishop of Armagh, primate of all Ireland (which includes the North of Ireland) was sitting in the sanctuary, close by Cardinal Vincent and the Archbishop’s representing Scotland and Wales. However, the Pope’s foreign secretary, Archbishop Gallagher, was sitting in the side nave, a number of rows behind HM the King.

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