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Steve Parsons/PA Wire
World News

Hope and reconciliation should be the tribute to VE Day generation – Archbishop

by Press Association

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called on people to honour the sacrifice of the 1945 generation by remembering reconciliation and holding on to hope.

In an address to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, Justin Welby spoke of the suffering endured by millions during the Second World War.

He reflected on "the years of courage and sacrifice" between a National Prayer Day in May 1940, when the outlook looked bleak, and the end of the war in Europe on May 8 1945.

In his video message filmed in lockdown, the Archbishop described reconciliation and hope as the "two great tributes we can pay to the 1945 generation", and spoke of the country being united against the threat of coronavirus.

"Hope shows in our determination to build a better, fairer, more Christ-like world and country: a country built in justice, peace and generosity as we are united before the threat of the virus, and united by the courage of medical staff and carers, as well as so many more essential workers," he said.

He added: "Nelson Mandela said that we should make our decisions out of our hopes, not our fears.

"Today we can honour the sacrifice that gave us victory in 1945 by deciding for reconciliation to deepen and widen, and by embracing hope to flow like a river carrying us to a brighter future."

Mr Welby highlighted how the UK has developed its friendship with its former Second World War enemies over the years.

"We have loved our former enemies by seeking their good, yet the horror of war persists. In these last weeks the United Nations Secretary General has called for a global ceasefire, and to many people's surprise in many places that has been followed," he said.

"To establish forgiveness and reconciliation is a salute to those who by their hope-filled service made our today possible."

He also talked of how his own family played their part during the conflict, including his grandfather in the Army, a great uncle who was killed while serving in the RAF, and his father who, as a very new pilot, flew bombing raids in Burma in 1945.

"All of them knew the burden of war, in common with millions of other people around the world. Almost everyone on a myriad of home fronts also served," the Archbishop said.

"There were few people who could avoid the struggle and pain in which more than 70 million people died, and hundreds of millions suffered."

He described how "hope lived as people prayed" when Prime Minister Winston Churchill advised King George VI to call a National Day of Prayer on May 26 1940 when the evacuation from Dunkirk was imminent and "expected to be a disaster without precedent".

The Archbishop added: "Almost exactly five years later on VE Day, the war in Europe had ended, although in the Far East the 14th Army and vast American forces had to fight on until August to achieve final victory."

He urged people "to pray for the future of this world, post virus, post pandemic, pray for solutions".

The message features on the Archbishop's website

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