'Lest we forget' - Anzac Day 2018

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > 'Lest we forget' - Anzac Day 2018

The commemoration of Anzac Day this year marks the centenary of the final year of the Great War. On November 11, 1918 the guns fell silent on the Western Front.

This final year of combat in Europe was marked by the German spring offensive at the Somme and their early advances. However, the Australians in April had recaptured Villers-Bretonneux and stopped the German offensive there. General John Monash’s great victory at Hamel marked the beginning of a number of Australian successes so that by September Australians had broken through the Hindenburg Line. The war moved towards the capitulation of the German forces and the end of one of the bloodiest of human conflicts.

This war, dubbed “the war to end all wars” ended one century ago. Sadly, wars were to continue and Europe would be thrown into another massive conflict just some twenty years later. These two great world wars unleashed levels of human suffering unknown in human history. Millions and millions perished, both combatants and civilians.

Today we pause to remember and honour those who suffered and died in defence of our country’s freedom – in the Great War and also in the many other conflicts that Australian defence forces have been engaged. We pause in silence to remember them. We acknowledge the spirit of sacrifice of those who served their country. We recognise acts of bravery and self-sacrifice.

Throughout Australia, in cities and towns, the traditional Dawn Service marks our nation’s commemoration of Anzac Day. The ceremony is also held in key overseas locations associated with Australian war efforts like Anzac Cove and Villers-Bretonneux.

At these dawn services wreathes are laid and a lone bugler sounds the Last Post and after a minute of silence plays Reveille. The Ode is then solemnly recited. The silence and dignity of this simple and moving ceremony expresses our desire to honour the fallen. The phrase “lest we forget” expresses our simple intention. We will not forget those who paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.

In this Mass, as Christians, we pray for their souls. We prayed in the opening prayer of the Mass, “Grant eternal rest to those who gave themselves in service and sacrifice for their country.”

As we cast our minds back one hundred years, we are also aware that today our defence forces are serving in foreign lands. Our defence personnel are serving in the Middle East and Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in various maritime and aerial deployments. Several thousand Australians are on active duty in dangerous parts of the world. 

Today we pray for those who serve in our defence forces. We pray that as they discharge their duties they will advance the cause of peace and harmony. We particularly remember those who serve in areas of conflict that they will be protected from harm and be able to return to their families and loved ones.

We hold up to the Lord those veterans who have served in combat situations and carry not only physical but also psychological scars from their experiences. We commend them to the mercy of God, especially that they may find healing.

We pray for peace in the world. Peace among nations and within nations. It is and will remain the duty of the Christian to intercede for peace and be an instrument of peace. We pray that places of conflict will find paths to restore peace and freedom. We remember those innocent citizens who are suffering intensely as they have been caught up in areas of conflict.

Today we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. We pray for them and commend their souls to God. Today we also pray for our nation that it may continue to enjoy freedom and prosperity. In asking this, we pray that individual citizens will be willing to offer themselves in generous service for the common good of our nation, Australia.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Wednesday, 25 April 2018