Fading memory of World War Two raises conflict fears, pope warns

By Thomson Reuters Jun 5, 2024 | 11:26 AM

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The horrors of World War Two are being forgotten, thereby raising the risk of a new global conflict, Pope Francis said on Wednesday in comments marking the 80th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings.

The allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France was a turning point in World War Two, and Francis said the brutal lessons of the past had fuelled a determination amongst subsequent generations to avoid any new large-scale fighting.

“I sadly note that this is no longer the case today and that people have short memories,” the pope said in a written message, adding that he hoped the D-Day commemoration would help revive the desire for peace.

“People want peace. They want conditions of stability, security, and prosperity where everyone can calmly fulfil their duty and destiny. To destroy this noble order for ideological, nationalist, or economic ambitions is a grave fault before humanity and history, a sin before God,” he said.

The D-Day anniversary comes as Ukraine continues to defend its territory from Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbour in 2022.

Francis did not mention the conflict, nor the eight-month war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but he said compromise was sometimes needed to end wars.

“Wanting peace is not cowardice. On the contrary, it requires the greatest courage, the courage to know how to give up something,” he said.

Francis stirred anger in Kyiv in March when he was quoted as saying that Ukraine should have what he called the courage of the “white flag” and negotiate an end to the war with Russia.

The Vatican said at the time he had picked up on the term spoken by his interviewer, and used it to indicate the need for “a truce achieved with the courage of negotiations”.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)