Pope and Queen Elizabeth in cordial meeting

Leaders exchange gifts and greetings

“Informal”, “cordial”, “casual” are just some of the descriptions of the April 3 meeting between Pope Francis and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, the queen spent some 25 minutes with the Pontiff at the papal office of the Pope Paul VI Hall, where there was an exchange of gifts, one of them a photograph of the monarch and prince, an item Queen Elizabeth offered with a light-hearted apology, reportedly stating: “I’m afraid you have to have a photograph. It’s inevitable.”

The leaders then held private discussions, which are reported to have been based on strengthening relations between the Catholic Church and the Church of England. The leaders were joined at this time by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, former Archbishop of Westminster. No details of these discussions were offered, other than the Vatican’s earlier stress that the Argentine Pope would remain neutral on the issue of the Falkland Islands, a still live dispute between Britain and Argentina.

The Rome trip was Queen Elizabeth’s first since 2011 when she travelled to Australia, and her first meeting with Pope Francis, the fifth Pontiff she has met during her reign.