ROME – After the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Francis on Thursday expressed his sorrow for the monarch’s passing and praised her devotion to her people, as well as her deep faith in Jesus Christ.

In a Sept. 8 statement addressed to King Charles III, Elizabeth’s eldest child, the pope said he was “deeply saddened” by the queen’s death, and he offered “heartfelt condolences” to the Royal Family, and to the people of the United Kingdom and the commonwealth.

“I willingly join all who mourn her loss in praying for the late Queen’s eternal rest, and in paying tribute to her life of unstinting service to the good of the nation and the commonwealth, her example of devotion to duty, her steadfast witness of faith in Jesus Christ and her firm hope in his promises,” he said.

Pope Francis assured Charles of his prayers and asked God to sustain him “with his unfailing grace as you now take up your high responsibilities as King.”

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“Upon you and all who cherish the memory of your late mother, I invoke an abundance of divine blessings as a pledge of comfort and strength in the Lord,” he said.

Queen Elizabeth II ruled for 70 years, ascending to the throne in 1952 at the age of 25, and she ruled until her death at the age of 96, making her the world’s longest reigning monarch.

Her reign spans seven different pontificates, beginning with Pope Pius XII. She met with Pope Francis in 2014. The last pope to meet her in the United Kingdom was Benedict XVI during his visit in 2010.

She died at Balmoral castle in Scotland, surrounded by her children and grandchildren.

In a statement Thursday, Cardinal Arthur Roche, head of the Vatican’s department for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments and the highest-ranking Englishman in the Vatican, expressed his “immense sadness” at the Queen’s passing.

“From the moment of her accession to the throne in 1952, following the death of her father King George VI, she not only dedicated herself unstintingly to serve her people, but also entrusted this to God’s protection,” he said.

Roche, who got his red hat Aug. 17, praised the Queen’s faith which was “expressed so often in her annual Christmas messages and elsewhere.”

“Her graciousness and common touch, her statesmanship and love for her people in the many countries, cultures and religions of the Commonwealth have witnessed an unbroken and unique bond of dedication to the service of others. She has been greatly loved by all,” he said.

Roche closed his statement referencing a famous broadcast the Queen made in 1947 at the age of 21, in which she said, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”

Queen Elizabeth, Roche said, “remained steadfast to the moment of her dying in fulfilling her own words.”

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