She has met the Beatles. She speaks fluent French. She has survived 12 U.S. Presidents and she even has a Facebook page. She served in WWII, driving a truck for the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service where she was known to change a flat tire or two. Today, Queen Elizabeth II adds on to her diverse list of accomplishments by becoming the longest-reigning monarch in British history with 63 years, 7 months and two days under her reign. "It is an honor and a pleasure to express the great loyalty and gratitude felt by the Catholic community of England and Wales for the outstanding and unstinting service you give to our nation and to people throughout the world," Cardinal Vincent Nichols wrote in a Sept. 8 letter. "We thank you too, for your steadfast insistence on the great importance of our Christian faith, given in both word and example, alongside your appreciation of the contribution made by other religions in our rich and diverse society today," Cardinal Nichols said, assuring the Queen of continued prayers. Queen Elizabeth II, now 89, surpassed her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria, who previously held the record for longest reigning British monarch. There was no official celebration, but the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker, commemorated the occasion with deep admiration. He told CNA that Queen Elizabeth II stands out to him as more than just the monarch who made history. Ambassador Baker spoke of the queen's deep sense of duty and service, which have been animated by devotion to her faith over the memorable years of service to her country. "I think for me, what really stands out, is her deep sense of service to Britain and the British people," he stated, saying "I think it's that sense of service and duty that springs forth from her faith." In times of difficulties, the queen has responded to situations grounded in her deep servitude and Christian beliefs — something that has made the British Ambassador proud. After becoming queen at the young age of 25 in 1952, Elizabeth has spent her reign breaking down both religious and political barriers. The queen has been to the Vatican five times in an effort to strengthen the ties between the Church of England and the Holy See. The first pope she met was Pope Pius XI during strained relations, but her latest visit with Pope Francis took place in April 2014. The monarch and pope exchanged gifts, drank tea, and renewed mutual friendliness between the Church of England and the Vatican. "The relations between the Church of England and the Catholic Church have been extraordinary," Baker commented, saying that their good standing could not have happened without Queen Elizabeth II's support. "Those occasions when Popes have met Queen Elizabeth II have provided the sort of canopy under which the relationship has developed and prospered, right up to the present time," he continued. The queen's reign also brought together the Vatican and Anglican cricket teams, who played against each other in an unprecedented sporting event in 2014. Ambassador Baker also recalled a time in 2011, a moment of political healing between England and Ireland. In a lot of ways, he said, this visit reflected the personification of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen was visiting Ireland — something no British monarch had done since King George V in 1911. She spoke Gaelic to the Irish people and remembered the times past. "It was a visit that overcame all sorts of taboos," Baker said. "It needed somebody with the character of the queen, with the wisdom of the queen, with that link — the constitutional link between herself and the kings and queens of the past, to break through the barriers which still existed between England and Ireland. Nobody else could've done that," Baker reflected. He called her the "grandmother of Europe," a name that reflects her time of service, her wisdom in public affairs, her devotion to faith, and her extraordinary ability to bind a nation together. Baker recalled the monarch's exemplary example of motherhood, personhood, integrity and faith, saying that she has always lived with a sense of doing the right thing. Even though Britain has changed over the course of 63 years, Baker believes Queen Elizabeth II has led the country devotedly. "We are celebrating the queen herself, but in a sense, we are also celebrating our own society and culture and democracy as we celebrate the queen today. It means a great deal," Baker said.
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