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WWI Centenary: Archbishop to attend national commemoration in Belgium today

Monday 4th August 2014

Archbishop of Canterbury will join senior politicians and Royal Family members at a national ceremony today where he will pray for reconciliation

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will join senior British politicians and members of the Royal Family at a national event in Belgium today commemorating the entry of British soldiers into World War One in August 1914.

The Archbishop will give a blessing at the special service at St Symphorien Military Cemetery, Mons, which will also be attended by senior UK politicians, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry.

During the ceremony, which will recall the sacrifices of British soldiers but also celebrate the strong friendship between former foes, the Archbishop will pray for reconciliation, asking that our “God of peace and justice” will strengthen people to “seek peace”.

The St Symphorien contains the bodies of the first and last British soldiers who died on the Western front in the First World War: Private John Parr of the Middlesex Regiment, who was fatally wounded during an encounter with a German patrol on 21 August 1914, two days before the battle of Mons; and Private George Ellison of the Royal Irish Lancers, who was killed on 11 November 1918.

The cemetery is shared, almost equally, between the Commonwealth and German dead. This is thanks to a Belgian, Jean Houzeau de Lehaie, who gave the land on condition that both British and German soldiers would be buried there.

This commemorative event, which is part of the Governments programme to mark the Centenary of the First World War, has been organised in partnership with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and will be based around music, poetry and readings which reflect the history of the site.

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