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Pastoral Letter on Remembrance Sunday

31/10/2006

BISHOPRIC OF THE FORCES

This Pastoral Letter is to be read and/or made available in printed format to Catholic Service Personnel, their families, and dependants on Remembrance Sunday.

It may also be distributed to personnel in local units as the Chaplain deems fit.

PASTORAL LETTER

"Pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding" Romans 14:19

As Remembrance Sunday comes round again next weekend, we renew our gratitude to those who risked life and limb in wars and conflicts to protect our country and preserve the values we cherish most dearly. As each year goes by, sadly more and more people are added to our prayers: servicemen and women who have given their today that we might have our tomorrow. We also include among them those caught up in bombings here at home, the emergency services who rescued them and cared for them, and those who have the terrible responsibility of averting further incidents, where hindsight is a wonderful thing, and criticism is merciless if things go wrong. Whilst the ordinary serviceman and woman may reflect privately on the morality of war and conflict, their training and professionalism require them to refrain from expressing any opinion publicly on such matters. They are intent, rather, as St Paul said in his letter to the Romans, on doing their duty to:

pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.1

The price that they pay, and the price paid by their families and loved ones, is high. As Remembrance Sunday comes round again this year, they have our support and our prayers, because deep down we know that the evil of conflict is less than the evil that would erupt if they did not do their duty.

For some, the price has become too high, and they have left the Services. The increasing demands of home and human relationships have superseded considerations of a military career. For those who remain, they need to be re-assured that they continue to be valued. They need to know that none of their superiors will ever lack the moral fibre to stand by them. Force strengths have to be sufficient; strategies realistic; supplies adequate; equipment appropriate; and apparel proper to the task in hand. Delay has no excuse. All improvements are welcome. These things are owed to our servicemen and women as of right. They are inherent parts of the job that they are asked to do. Anything less risks lives and is morally reprehensible. The accident that should never have happened means someone is responsible.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us something that we might not want to hear, when he says:
We looked for peace, but no good came; for a time of healing, but behold terror.

We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord.[2]

If we acknowledge our wickedness, we confess that we too are responsible. For, our Christian faith asks us to love our enemies, to support and pray for them. That is difficult when there are those who achieve their objective by killing others in the name of God. This can never be pleasing to God nor be true to any religion. Our society contains more and more disaffected and dislocated people. We have to ask ourselves why this is happening and how such situations can be remedied. For, weaknesses and disintegration are adversely affecting the quality of life in this country. I believe that political, military, and Church leaders have a moral responsibility to call our country back to its Christian roots, to its very soul and heritage, and to its value systems, and then unashamedly offer them to others. It is a strong Christian faith that can form the basis for engaging people of all faiths. It will draw them to integrate more with British society and culture. Then they will feel that they belong here, and will resist extremists drawing them into radical causes. The present reality of global interdependence makes us appreciate the common destiny of the entire human family. We have to continue to work for the common good: by integrating peoples and cultures, by sharing human and financial resources, and by restoring the role of soldier, sailor, and airman as instruments called by God, in St Paul’s words, to do their duty to: pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.1

Thomas Matthew

Bishop of the Forces

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[1] Romans 14:19

[2] Jeremiah 14:19-20