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Archbishop speaks of ‘deep wound’ of Dresden bombing

20 February 2015


Better together: a human chain commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden during the Second World War

Better together: a human chain commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden during the Second World War

ANY suggestion that the Archbishop of Canterbury apologised for the bombing of Dresden was "manifestly false", a statement from Lambeth Palace said on Friday. It followed a report in the Daily Mail under the headline "Archbishop says sorry for bombing the Nazis".

"The Archbishop's comments were a reflection in a solemn ceremony on the tragedy of war," a spokesman said. "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."

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). Speaking at the Frauenkirche, he said that even being invited, as a British church leader, was "nothing short of miraculous".

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: ". . . 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."

In a blog written on Saturday, he expressed his "sadness" on seeing the Daily Mail headline: "No honest reading of what I said . . . could come anywhere near such an idea."

"I want to get back to the 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 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?"

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