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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Church is Under-Appreciated Says the Queen

Speaking at the first public event to mark her Diamond Jubilee Year, and in contrast with America's own Diocletian, Queen Elizabeth today reflected upon "the importance of faith in creating and sustaining communities all over the United Kingdom."


By Victoria Ward
In a timely address to leaders of Britain's nine main religions at Lambeth Palace, London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, she highlighted the importance of faith in society and the "critical guidance" it offered in life.

"The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated," she said.

"Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country."

The monarch, speaking at the first public event to mark her Diamond Jubilee, said that Church was "woven into the fabric of this country" and had helped to build a better society.

It has "created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely", she added.

The Queen's words were considered a rare intervention in the war of words between critics of the Church and faith communities.

It follows a warning issued by Baroness Warsi, chairman of the Conservative Party, who said yesterday that British society was under threat from a rising tide of "militant secularisation" reminiscent of "totalitarian regimes".

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, the Cabinet Office minister said that to create a “more just society” Britons must “feel stronger in their religious identities”.

Last week, the High Court ruled that local councils could not hold prayers during meetings. There have also been recent cases of public sector workers being banned from displaying Christian symbols at work.

The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, had earlier met leaders of the eight non-Christian religions; the Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Jewish, Muslim, and Zoroastrian; who each presented her with a treasured object important to their faith.

In an address in the palace's Guard Room, she said: "Our religions provide critical guidance for the way we live our lives and for the way in which we treat each other.

"Here at Lambeth Palace we should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation's life."

She said the occasion marked an opportunity to reflect on the importance of faith in "creating and sustaining communities" across Britain.

"Faith plays a key role in the identity of many millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging," she added.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, paid tribute to the Queen's "personal commitment" to her office as a call from God which he said was "at the heart of her understanding of her role".

She has effectively shown that "being religious is not eccentric or abnormal", he said.

"The personal faith to which you have so regularly alluded entails the conviction of a calling from God to do what you do and to be what you are; it also means a full understanding of what makes communities work," he said.

A report conducted for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK) suggested that almost three quarters (74 per cent) of Christians polled agreed that religion should not influence public policy, while only about one in eight (12 per cent) thought it should.

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