This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. It falls on the Sunday nearest Armistice Day, 11 November, which marks the end of the First World War. There will not be the usual parade at the Cenotaph in Whitehall this year because of the lockdown. After the queen and the royal family laid their wreaths followed by the politicians and the chaplains there was a parade of all those who served in the armed forces. It is impressive and moving.
My father was a regular soldier who fought in the Second World War and was captured at the fall of Singapore in 1942. He remained a prisoner of the Japanese until the end of the war. He never did join the others on any Remembrance Day Parade but, growing up, I was aware that his wartime experience changed him. Memories of those years were always with him.
It is important that on this Remembrance Day recall all those who gave their lives for their country, all who suffered and died through acts of war and those who were left behind to grieve and mourn. I never did ask my father what were his feeling at this yearly day of remembrance. I am sure that he thought about all those of his regiment who died as they tried to defend Singapore and all those who didn’t survive the brutal and inhuman regime of the prisoner of war camp that lasted three years.
Pope Francis, in the encyclical he wrote in October, “Fratellie Tutti”, said “We can no longer think of war as a solution because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits …In view of this it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war’. Never again war!”
His words are a challenge to us to look at out teaching on the just war and on the procession of nuclear weapons.
We pray today for peace and reconciliation between nations; that enemies may put aside all differences. Let us also remember all those who have died through war or acts of violence; may we never forget their sacrifice.
Here is a prayer from the Roman missal.
O God, merciful and strong,
who crush wars and cast down the proud,
be pleased to banish violence swiftly from our midst
and to wipe away all tears,
so that we may all truly deserve to be called your children.