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Church and world leaders gathered in France today to remember the thousands of men who died during the historic D-Day landings that marked the beginning of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.
Veterans of the Normandy Landings, most of whom are now in their nineties, joined the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at a service of remembrance to commemorate the 70th D-Day at Bayeux Cathedral in Normandy this morning.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha, and the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, also attended, along with local Bishop Jean Claude Boulanger of Bayeux-Lisieux. From England and Wales Bishop of the Forces Richard Moth attended along with various forces chaplains including Mgr Andrew McFadden, Catholic chaplain to the Royal Navy.
Pope Francis sent a message to be read out at the ceremony, in which he called upon people to remember the sacrifices of the soldiers participating in the D-Day landings.
At the end of the ecumenical ceremony Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris blessed or “baptised” the cathedral’s new Peace Bell in the centre of the nave. Sprinkling the bell with holy water, he pronounced a blessing over it.
The bell has nine godmothers or godfathers of different nationalities, of whom the Queen is the “senior” godparent.
Prince Charles, representing the Queen, named the bell Thérèse-Bénedicte after St. Thérèse-Bénedicte of the Cross. St Thérèse, born Edith Stein, was a Jewish philosopher and convert who died at Auschwitz. Afterwards the bell was rung for the first time.
Meanwhile the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended a ceremony at Sword Beach, which was stormed by British troops in the middle of the night on 6 June 1944. She was joined by US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other heads of state.
The national chairman of the Normandy Veterans Association, Eddie Slater, read the Ode of Remembrance.
He and 499 others are the last survivors of the Normandy Landings. The Association will disband in November, and this was to be the last D-Day memorial they would attend together.
Earlier this morning the Queen laid a wreath at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Bayeux, the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War.
Above: The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are greeted by Cardinal Vingt-Trois outside Bayeux cathedral. Photo: CNS via Reuters