Pope and Church leaders recall D-Day sacrifice of thousands ‘for freedom and peace’

Pope and Church leaders recall D-Day sacrifice of thousands ‘for freedom and peace’ French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump stand together during a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Photo Credit: CNS/Carlos Barria, Reuters.

Pope Francis praised Allied troops who took part in critical D-Day landings in France 75 years ago, while also remembering German soldiers who died fighting under Nazi orders.

“We know the landings on June 6, 1944, here in Normandy were decisive in the struggle against Nazi barbarism, allowing a path to open towards ending a war which had so profoundly battered Europe and the world,” Pope Francis said in a message to Bishop Jean-Claude Boulanger of Bayeux, France.

“I recall with recognition all those soldiers from France and other countries who had the courage to engage and give their lives for freedom and peace,” he said in the message posted on the diocesan website. “I entrust them to the Lord’s infinitely merciful love, along with this war’s millions of victims, without forgetting those on the German side who fought in obedience to a regime animated by a murderous ideology.”

The Pope expressed “spiritual closeness and prayer” to representatives of various faiths jointly commemorating D-Day, which marked a key stage in Europe’s World War II liberation.

“I hope this commemoration allows all generations in Europe and around the world to reaffirm forcefully that peace is based on respect for every person, whatever their history, and on respect for law, the common good and creation,” Pope Francis said.

“And I ask the Lord to help Christians of all confessions, with believers of other religions and people of goodwill to promote a true universal fraternity, favouring a culture of encounter and dialogue, attentive to the small and poor,” he added.

The Pope’s message was released as US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron joined more than 3,000 D-Day veterans remembering the 1944 landings that saw tens of thousands of Allied troops from the US, Great Britain and Canada come ashore in what became a turning point in World War II.

The 75th anniversary was marked by a June 6 ecumenical service in Bayeux’s Catholic cathedral and the laying of wreaths at invasion sites, including the US cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, near Omaha Beach, where nearly 9,400 Americans are buried.

During a commemoration event on June 5 at the Abbey of Saint-Etienne in nearby Caen, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, said there can be no world peace without peace between religions.

“Safeguarding peace is the responsibility of everyone, a responsibility for women and men of our globalised, lacerated and overly-armed world,” Cardinal Ouellet told an audience at the abbey where many of Caen’s residents found refuge during the battle of Normandy.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published excerpts from the speech yesterday.

The Normandy commemorations followed ceremonies on June 5 at the British naval base in Portsmouth, England, where Queen Elizabeth II, British Prime Minister Theresa May, President Trump and other world leaders recalled the heroic work of the Allied forces.

Trump read excerpts from a prayer delivered in a D-Day radio message by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, noting the “mighty endeavour” being undertaken by Allied forces was meant “to preserve our republic, our religion and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity”.