“Both Elizabeth and Benedict have seen war and its woeful aftermath, up close. They have watched totalitarian regimes advance and decline, and seen religion used as a justification for slaughter. They know what the rhetorical jackboot sounds like and how seamlessly it can advance; they can speak to our time, if we let them.
Over eight decades, much that formed this pope and this queen-from simple manners to excessive ritual-has been dismantled and reconstructed; the terrain must seem very odd to them, yet they have managed to remain faithful to their roots and callings. The churches they serve have been rocked by social upheaval, doctrinal controversy, and scandal, and both the monarchy and papacy are today facing criticism about the size and necessity of their offices, but duty, for these two, trumps personal comfort. Retirement is a luxury denied them.
Elizabeth and Benedict, despite obvious differences, may take some comfort in each other’s brief company. Almost no one on the planet knows what they know; perhaps no one in current leadership can see and-with the eloquence born of experience-speak to past and future days, from their lonely thrones and balconies.
History has a way of looping, of revisiting past business with an ironic touch, and as we anticipate the arrival of the Roman Pontiff to England’s green and pleasant pastures we can’t but wonder what these great figures of the twentieth century-the last still astride the world’s stage-will have to say to each other, to us, and to the amateur-hour leadership plaguing too-many shores, about unity, common-purpose and co-operation as the Queen of England, descendant of Henry VIII, welcomes the Bishop of Rome, successor of Peter. Their coming together warrants watching with good will, and perhaps a few whispered-up prayers.”