Yesterday our Australian Catholic parish prayed the prayers approved by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales for the Diamond Jubilee of our Queen. We downloaded them from the Bishop's website on the internet. Father read out the prayer which he assumed he would read by himself but at every Mass the people joined in vigorously with him. Our parish is a very simple parish with a diverse range of people of many diverse ethnic origins and strangely enough with a good contingent of Anglo-Australians and young people. We credit our growth and success as a parish to our Perpetual Adoration chapel. Our congregation has tripled and we are now financially supporting ourselves and actually sending money into the Archdiocese. The area we lived in had a noisy troubled element that came forth especially on the weekends to wreck havoc- now peace reigns in the area.
It was rather sad to read that the ABC wasn't going to show any live coverage of the Jubilee events until the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy began a campaign which was quickly growing in strength when the ABC backed down and agreed to show the events (or most of them) live. I have just finished watching the events of the Royal Flotilla down the Thames which was fantastic if somewhat wet. It is also rather saddening that our Australian Government hasn't done much to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee and we have been out done by the Canadians. It is also sad that our Australian Catholic Bishops unlike the British Bishops have been silent about the whole events. Shame on them.
Polls have shown that in both Australia, Canada and Britain that support for a Republic has dropped drastically and that support for the Monarchy is at an all time high. A recent British poll found 80 percent support for the Queen and in last year's Morgan Poll just before the Queen visited Australia that the support for a Republic was down to 34 percent and dropping and that the younger generation were even less in favour of a Republic (only 31 percent). It is said that the figures is now in the low 20's. The success of the Queen's Australian visit was obvious to all especially here in Perth with the Royal Big Aussie BBQ where over 150,000 West Australians of all ethnic backgrounds gathered to honour the Queen and the Duke.
The Republicans are always in the habit of claiming to speak for the people and in fact the people don't agree with them at all especially the rural and working class populations who demonstrated that in the 1999 referendum on the Republic by overwhelming support for the Queen and our Constitutional Monarchy. Now some of these political types are complaining about naming our new Quay development in honour of the Queen as Elizabeth Quay. Well I as a fifth generation Western Australian think it is fantastic that the Quay will be named in her honour and I am sure the vast majority of Western Australians are too. It is time these political and celebrity elites got in touch with the opinions and desires of the ordinary Australians rather than trying to look trendy and progressive to their fellow celebrities and political mates.
Cardianl Pell of Sydney was a notable supporter of a Republic back in 1999 (much to my and many fellow Catholics disgust at the time). I wonder if he has had a change of heart. In February he spoke about the Queens Diamond Jubilee.
"...As we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, the bleak background I outlined helps us to avoid taking our blessings for granted. We cannot presume that the values and virtues we cherish will be maintained automatically and passed onto the next generations undiminished. For this, a community needs leaders who will work hard, possess a sense of duty, are able to lead wisely; and they need a community who knows the music so they can join the singing.
The Australian system of government works well, because it regularly meets all these criteria and the Queen has also played her part well. This year we celebrate her sixty years of achievement, ably supported by Prince Philip. She embodies many of the values we aspire to share. She knows the duties she has inherited, the tasks she must perform as a constitutional monarch, in our case, through the Governor General and I repeat, she has done well.
Therefore as one of the guarantors of our governing authority, and its proper exercise and as a democratic symbol who is subject to God's authority, we give Queen Elizabeth the honour and respect which is her due.
It does not seem sixty years since those pre-television days in Australia when we followed her coronation in Westminster Abbey, that ancient Christian shrine rededicated and restored by King Edward the Confessor in 1065 and now a repository of history for Britain and indeed the English-speaking world. Although we could only follow by radio, newsreels, newspapers and magazines, there was probably even more interest in the coronation than in the recently televised wedding ceremony of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; and that generated huge audiences around the world.
In our Judaeo-Christian tradition Saul was anointed King of the Israelite federation by Samuel the priest more than 1000 years before Christ. Roman Emperors and Christian Kings continued this monarchical tradition everywhere until the French revolutions from 1789, the communist revolution in Russia in 1917 and two world Wars reduced the number of monarchies in the old world. In the new world of the Americas they too followed other paths, except for Canada.
But these thousands of years of monarchical history explain why the position of kings and queens, even more than the concept of bishop, is embedded in the Western psyche. That such an ancient and evocative institution also serves our nation's practical purposes well helps explain the re-endorsement of the role of the British monarchy in Australian life in the referendum of 1999. It was also an expression of the respect and affection Australians have for the Queen personally. Any new system needs to be better.
This celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen of Australia reminds us that of the British monarchs only Queen Victoria has reigned for longer; a considerable achievement.
This jubilee also points to some elemental truths about ourselves, as Australians, which are often studiously avoided or dismissed as irrelevant.
The first truth is that Australia is a distant outpost of European civilization on the south-eastern extremity of Asia. Migrants of every background continue to be welcome here and most of them come, not merely to benefit their children, but because our society is a haven of peace and widespread, if imperfect justice. They find our constitutional arrangements attractive.
It is an interesting possibility that if the twenty-first century sees the continued rise of China and India to super-power status (and this is by no means certain) the link with the British royals might also continue to be asserted to define our European identity, just as the English-speaking Canadians rally around the Crown to assert that they are different from their United States neighbours.
Elizabeth was anointed and crowned in a spectacular and dignified Christian ceremony which drew on centuries of tradition. She is head of the Church of England and carries the title of Defender of the Faith, first given to her predecessor Henry VIII by Pope Leo X in 1521.
In an age of increasing but still minority secularism the Queen prompts us to remember the Judaeo-Christian roots of our way of life, which give us Christmas and Easter, which define Australian "common sense", the insistence of "a fair go for everyone" and our sympathy for the underdog. She also reminds us that nearly two-thirds of Australians call themselves Christian.
In Australia we practise a substantial separation of Church and State and acknowledging the majority identification as Christian implies no threat to the irreligious or indeed anti-religious, who have the same freedoms as we do to influence public opinion.
The Queen's reign has seen immense changes ranging as it does from Sir Robert Menzies and Sir Winston Churchill to Julia Gillard and David Cameron. Unlike George III she did not lose the Americas but she has presided over the transition from the British Empire to the British Commonwealth. The winds of change blew through English-speaking Africa as they had blown through India soon after the Second World War. She saw the peaceful fall of Communism and the collapse of the Soviet Empire, which came as such a surprise to most of our commentariat. She has seen the creation of the Common Market and the European Union.
As she continues her years of service we pray that God will not fail or forsake her, that she will remain strong and courageous and that she will always act "in accordance with all that is written" in the sacred Books.
In other words we pray that the one true God, our Lord and God, will be with her wherever she goes."
Our Queen is God's anointed as were her ancestors on the thrones of England, Scotland, France and Ireland. She is the only European Sovereign to have been anointed in the same way as the Kings of the Royal House of King David. We thank God for her 60 years on the Throne and say God Save the Queen, Long Live the Queen of Australia. Long may She reign over us.