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The Pope’s Message for the 80th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings

It is hypocritical to remember without condemning: ‘Never again war!’

British veteran Bernard Morgan, 100, looks on at Bayeux cemetery, on the day of commemorative events ...
07 June 2024

D-Day brings to mind the disaster represented by World War ii , and “it would be pointless and hypocritical to commemorate it without condemning and rejecting it definitively”, Pope Francis wrote in a message to the Bishop of Bayeux on Wednesday, 5 June, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, “a colossal and impressive collective and military effort” on the beaches of France to restore freedom. The following is a translation from French of the Holy Father’s message.

To His Excellency Monsignor Jacques Habert
Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux


I am pleased to join, in thought and prayer, with all those gathered in this Cathedral of Bayeux to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy. I welcome all the civil, religious and military authorities present.

We remember the colossal and impressive collective and military effort made to restore freedom. And we also think of the cost of this effort: these immense cemeteries with rows of thousands of soldiers’ graves — most of them very young, and many of them from far away — who heroically gave their lives, thus bringing the Second World War to an end and restoring peace, a peace that — at least in Europe — lasted almost 80 years. The landings also cause dismay, as they call to mind images of the towns and cities of Normandy that were completely devastated: Caen, Le Havre, Saint-Lô, Cherbourg, Flers, Rouen, Lisieux, Falaise, Argentan... and so many others; and we would also like to remember the countless innocent civilian victims and all those who suffered those terrible bombardments.

But the landings evoke, more generally, the disaster represented by that atrocious world conflict in which so many men, women and children suffered, so many families were torn apart, and so much destruction was wrought. It would be pointless and hypocritical to commemorate it without condemning and rejecting it definitively; without renewing Saint Paul vi ’s cry to the United Nations on 4 October 1965: never again war! Although, for several decades, the memory of the errors of the past supported the steadfast determination to do everything possible to avoid a new open global conflict, I note with sadness that this is no longer the case today and that mankind has a short memory. May this commemoration help us to recover it!

It is worrying, in fact, that the possibility of widespread conflict is sometimes once again being seriously considered, that people are gradually becoming accustomed to this unacceptable possibility. People want peace! They want conditions of stability, security and prosperity in which everyone can fulfil their duties and destinies in peace. Destroying this noble order of things for ideological, nationalistic or economic ambitions is a serious fault before mankind and before history, a sin before God.

So, Your Excellency, I wish to join your prayers and those of all those gathered in your Cathedral:

Let us pray for the men who want wars, those who start them, stir them up senselessly, maintain and prolong them uselessly, or cynically profit from them. May God enlighten their hearts, may he set before their eyes the trail of misfortune they cause!

Let us pray for peacemakers. To want peace is not cowardly. On the contrary, it requires great courage, the courage to know how to give up something. Even if mankind’s judgement is sometimes harsh and unjust towards them, “the peacemakers … shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9). May they oppose the implacable and obstinate logic of confrontation and be able to open up peaceful paths of encounter and dialogue. May they persevere tirelessly in their endeavours, and may their efforts be crowned with success.

Lastly, let us pray for the victims of wars, both past and present. May God welcome to him all those who died in those terrible conflicts, and may he come to the aid of all those who suffer them today; the poor and the weak, the elderly, women and children are always the first victims of these tragedies.

May God have mercy on us! Invoking the protection of Saint Michael, patron saint of Normandy, and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, I wholeheartedly impart my Blessing to each and every one of you.