In her first public address for 2012, the Queen Thursday delivered an impassioned defence of religion in an increasingly secular society.
The Daily Mail described the speech, delivered to leaders of Britain's nine main religions on Wednesday, as "strongly worded" and "one of the most outspoken of her 60-year reign".
It was her first Diamond Jubilee year speech, which Buckingham Palace officials confirmed was written by the Queen herself, and it was delivered at Lambeth Palace to the Archbishop of Canterbury, along with leaders representing the eight non-Christian religions recognised in the country â Islam, Judaism, Baha'i, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism.
Her address highlighted the way religion offered "critical guidance" for the way in which people live their lives.
And she emphasised that while the Church of England, of which she is head, was "woven into the fabric of this country" it also had a "duty" to protect freedom of worship for other faiths in order to build "a better society".
The Queen said: "This gathering is a reminder of how much we owe the nine major religious traditions represented here. We should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation's life. The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated.
"It's role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country."
The Queen's address was particularly timely given last week's landmark legal ruling banning the saying of prayers at council meetings.
Christians and politicians reacted with dismay after a judge overturned centuries of custom by stopping a council in Devon putting prayers on the formal agenda.
This and other developments, including recent cases of public sector workers being banned from displaying Christian symbols at work, have sparked a debate over whether the country is becoming too secularised and what effect this will have on society.
Rebecca English, "Queen extends strong backing to Church" Gulf News February 17, 2012
"The Queen stands up for religion " AAP February 17, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today