Ratzinger joins in D-Day commemoration
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger represented Pope John Paul II in Normandy at the weekend, marking the 60th anniversary of the D-Day offensive.
He joined heads of state and thousands of war veterans gathered in France for the commemoration of the battle that cost the lives of 250,000 soldiers.
Veterans marched under sunny skies past the leaders seated in Arromanches to the strains of the theme music for the D-Day film The Longest Day.
For the first time, a German chancellor Gerhard Schröder was invited to participate in ceremonies at the D-Day landing sites. The presence of Cardinal Ratzinger, also a German citizen, underlined the message of European unity and reconciliation.
Catholic World News reports that the participation of Cardinal Ratzinger, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was still more significance because the young Ratzinger was actually held prisoner by American troops in the spring of 1945.
Born on 16 April 1927, young Ratzinger entered a pre-seminary program in 1939. In 1943, he was drafted along with other students of his age into a military training program, and received some instruction in anti-aircraft tactics.
Only his status as a future priest enabled him to avoid service in the notorious SS; instead he was sent to an infantry barracks in Traunstein. By now fiercely opposed to the Nazi regime, he deserted from the army, and returned to his family home near Traunstein in April 1945.
When US troops arrived, they chose that home as their temporary headquarters, and soon discovered the young German soldier. He was marched under armed guard to a prisoner-of-war camp, where he was interned along with 50,000 other German soldiers, until his release in June.
Ratzinger to join in D-Day commemoration (Catholic World News 4/6/04)
Leaders and veterans mark D-Day (BBC 6/6/04)
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club
Churches renew D-Day peace wish (CathNews 2/6/04)
D-Day: 60 Years On (BBC)
7 Jun 2004