ANY suggestion that the Archbishop of Canterbury apologised for
the bombing of Dresden was "manifestly false", a statement from
Lambeth Palace said on Friday.
The rebuttal followed a report in the Daily Mail under the
headline "Archbishop says sorry for bombing the Nazis". The Bishop
of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, has accused the newspaper of
"lies, misrepresentation, slander, and brain-dead ideological
"The Archbishop's comments were a reflection in a solemn
ceremony on the tragedy of war," a Lambeth Palace spokesman said on
Friday. "They very carefully avoided apologising, and those
present, including the President of Germany, recognised the
difference. In his speech, the President also recognised the fact
that there is no equivalence with Nazi war crimes, and that the war
started with Nazi aggression. Any suggestion that the Archbishop
was apologising is manifestly false."
The Archbishop was among a delegation from the UK who attended a
service commemorating the 70th anniversary of the bombing of
Dresden last week (News,
13 February). In a speech at the Frauenkirche, he said that
even being invited, as a British church leader, was "nothing short
He described how Allied bombers had "brought death and
destruction on a scale and with a ferocity it is impossible to
imagine. In the rage of war our hearts inevitably harden, and
increasingly brutal and devastating force is unleashed. . .
"Much debate surrounds this most controversial raid of the
Allied bombing campaign. Whatever the arguments, events here 70
years ago left a deep wound and diminished all our humanity. So, as
a follower of Jesus, I stand here among you with a profound feeling
of regret and deep sorrow."
He concluded: "We should never underestimate the miracle which
peace in Europe represents - arguably the most significant
political process of reconciliation in history."
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live after the service, the
Archbishop was asked whether Britain and the United States should
apologise for what happened in Dresden.
He replied: "That's a very complicated question, because when
you listen to people who were in Bomber Command and you hear of
their suffering. . . I lived in Coventry, and you see the suffering
there; in London, we know of the Blitz, and in many other cities
right across the United Kingdom and round the world I think it's
more complicated than 'Should we apologise?' I think there is a
deep need for profound sorrow at the events and the causes of such
dreadful times as Europe lived through."
The Archbishop was co-director of the reconciliation ministry at
Coventry Cathedral from 2002 to 2005.
In a blog written on Saturday, he expressed his "sadness" on
seeing the Daily Mail headline: "No honest reading of what I said
in the church, and on the BBC afterwards, could come anywhere near
such an idea."
He referred to the death of his grandmother's brother on his
first mission, in a Wellington bomber.
"I want to get back to the moving and tragic recognition in
Dresden that the great evil of the Nazis created a great war, and
during it terrible things were done, by necessity, by the nature of
war," he wrote. "Churchill said 'Jaw-jaw is better than war-war.'
So let us mourn and learn, honour the heroism of those who defeated
Hitler and his regime, celebrate our freedoms, and, in the strength
of Jesus Christ, struggle for peace and reconciliation, of which he
is the source."
The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, was scathing in
his response to the Daily Mail.
"It is shameful that a so-called free press, so often 'defended'
by the so-called 'popular' press, sees fit to celebrate the
freedoms gained by the sacrifice of so many 70 years ago by
stooping to lies, misrepresentation, slander, and brain-dead
ideological nonsense," he wrote on his blog on Sunday. "Is the
Daily Mail going to have the courage and integrity - values
demonstrated by those who sacrificed so much during World War Two -
to apologise for the scandalous headline and story published a
couple of days ago?"
The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, has
suggested that the 70th anniversary might be "an appropriate
occasion for our Government to acknowledge the suffering of the
city then, and to express sympathy with those who still bear its
scars now. . . A word of kindness to the city of Dresden in this
century would display to the world both that friendship is better
than enmity and that healing the past requires generous gestures in
In a lecture that he delivered at the Frauenkirche last year, he
said that the bombing of both Dresden and Coventry "testifies to
the barbarism into which Europe descended in the 1940s".