Pope meets Britain's Queen Elizabeth in the Vatican

(Photo: REUTERS / Stefano Rellandini)Britain's Queen Elizabeth talks with Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican April 3, 2014.

Queen Elizabeth II, the British monarch, has met Pope Francis for the first time, during a one-day visit to Rome.

The meeting in the Vatican was described as a private one and the BBC correspondent in Rome says pomp and protocol were kept to a minimum.

The Vatican described the meeting as a "private audience" at which Elizabeth was present with Francis and her husband Prince Philip.

Also attending the private encounter was Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, former archbishop of Westminster and the first Catholic bishop to preach for the Royal Family since the Church of England broke from Rome in the 16th century.

The Queen brought a royal hamper packed with gifts from  Buckingham Palace that included venison, beef and some best bitter beer from Windsor Castle, cider, apple juice and a selection of chutneys, some shortbread and whisky from the Balmoral estate in Scotland.


The Pope had a gift for the Queen's grandson, Prince George,  third in line to the throne, who was born last year. It was an orb made from lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone featuring a silver cross of St. Edward the Confessor.

Queen Elizabeth was clearly delighted with this, Vatican Radio reported.

"That's very nice, he'll be thrilled with that...when he's a little older," she said.

The 87-year-old Queen is not only the head of State in the United Kingdom, she is Supreme Governor of the Church of England and, in some of her realms, carries the additional title of Defender of the Faith.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is the spiritual head of the Church of England and the symbolic head of the 80-million Anglican Communion. Welby met Francis in June last year.

The Anglican church separated from Rome after the divorce of King Henry VIII in 1534.

The BBC reported that Anglican-Catholic relations have been thorny over the Vatican's move to bring in hundreds of Church of England priests dissenting from their church's line on the ordination of women.

Before meeting the Pope, the Queen and Prince Philip had lunch with the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, and his wife Clio at Rome's Quirinal Palace.

In 1982 she became the first monarch since the Reformation to welcome a pope to Britain during John Paul II's visit to the country and in 2010 she also hosted Pope Benedict XVI on his State visit to the United Kingdom.

Queen Elizabeth had previously visited the Vatican three times during her reign - once to meet Pope John XXIII in 1961 and again in 1980 and 2000 to see Pope John Paul II.

Elizabeth also met Pope Pius XII in 1951, the year before she assumed the throne and she met Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Edinburgh when he visited the United Kingdom as pontiff in 2010.

It is the Queen's first trip to a foreign country since a 2011 visit to Australia.

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