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D-Day landings: Pope pays tribute to ‘heavy sacrifice’ of soldiers

William Ness, 12th Yorkshire Parachute Battalion, pictured during a commemorative ceremony at Memorial Pegasus near Ouistreham, France (Photo: PA)

Pope Francis has paid tribute to the “heavy sacrifice” of soldiers who fought against Nazism on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

In a message to the Church in France the Pope hailed “the numerous soldiers who left their countries to land on the beaches of Normandy, in order to fight against Nazi barbarism and liberate occupied France”.

The message, signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, said the Pope “does not forget the German soldiers” or the victims of the Second World War.

“This commemoration reminds us that the exclusion of God from the life of people and societies can bring only death and misfortune,” the message said.

It added that Pope Francis asked for St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) to be “a guide and a protector to advance on the path of peace”.

On the same day the Pope said he would be marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War on September 13 by visiting an Italian military cemetery, where he will pray “for those who have fallen in every war”.