VATICAN CITY (CNS) — People must continue to recognize the sacrifice of the Allied soldiers who liberated Europe from “Nazi barbarism,” but also should not forget the German soldiers “dragged into this drama,” Pope Francis said.
The pope believes “present generations should express their full recognition to all those who made such a heavy sacrifice,” said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, in a message commemorating the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy.
The cardinal’s D-Day message was sent to Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris and Bishop Jean Claude Boulanger of Bayeux-Lisieux, who were marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the liberation of France. The bishops blessed a commemorative bell, naming it after St. Edith Stein, a co-patron of Europe, who was killed in a Nazi death camp.
Cardinal Parolin said Pope Francis hoped the commemoration would “remind us that excluding God from the lives of people and society cannot but bring death and suffering.”
“May European nations find in the Gospel of Christ, the prince of peace, the roots of their history and the source of inspiration for forging bonds that are always fraternal and marked by solidarity,” the pope prayed.
In Normandy, Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer with the Archdiocese for the Military Services delivered the invocation at the internationally televised ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Bishop Spencer asked divine guidance for government and military leaders as they chart the course of the future.
The archdiocese’s episcopal vicar for Europe and Asia led some 6,000 attendees, including 400 D-Day veterans along with Secretary of State John Kerry, in prayer.
“Give to our government and military leaders the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity,” the bishop prayed. “Whenever we face difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ from one another.”
Bishop Spencer is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the American cemetery on Omaha Beach June 7.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the Archdiocese for the Military Services and a New York Catholic high school ensured the 70th anniversary of D-Day was not forgotten. Both have strong ties to Franciscan Father Ignatius Maternowski. The St. Francis High School alumni from Athol Springs, New York, was the only military chaplain to die on D-Day.
The high school held a brief ceremony during its home room period to recall the Franciscan priest. Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, said Fr. Maternowski was an exemplary military chaplain. He jumped into Normandy on D-Day and was shot by an unknown sniper while trying to negotiate with the Germans regarding care for the wounded on both sides.
“He walked into enemy territory, without a gun or helmet, in a brave effort to help the hurt and dying,” Archbishop Broglio said. “He died courageously living out the words of our Savior, putting his life on the line to help others. Father Maternowski’s heroic sacrifice is an outstanding example of Christian love in practice, even in the face of great evil and adversity.”
— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service. The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA contributed to this story.