As the Queen prepares to meet Pope Francis, we look back at her many papal encounters

06 February 2014 | by Catherine Pepinster

Elizabeth II and the papacy

The coins of her realm still mention the title bestowed on Henry VIII by Leo X in 1521, before he broke with Rome: Fidei Defensor, or Defender of the Faith. Indeed, Elizabeth II, throughout her reign, has always defended Christianity. But it is as if she has sought to heal that fracture with the Catholic Church herself. Her reign has not only been one of growing ecumenical relations between the Catholic Church and the Church of England but also one where she has come to symbolise these cordial relations with her meetings with four popes.The encounters began even before she was crowned, when, as the heiress presumptive Princess Elizabeth, she met Pope Pius XII in 1951. No photographers were allowed to record the private audience. By the time she met John XXIII, during a state visit to Ital

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