Germans and Britons celebrate Dresden cathedral peace hope
Representatives from Britain, including those from war-damaged Coventry Cathedral, joined tens of thousands of Germans yesterday, as they celebrated the re-consecration of the landmark Dresden Frauenkirche, rebuilt following its destruction in the Second World War.
A 180 million euro project to fund the reconstruction of the historic building was partly financed by private donors in Britain and the USA, including those impacted by the bombing. Millions watched the ceremony across the world.
Coventry Cathedral was also bombed during the war, and a modern new edifice was constructed out of the ashes, alongside some preserved ruins of the old building. People from Dresden, twinned with the city, supported that venture.
Appropriately, therefore, the Anglican bishop of Coventry, the Rt Rev Dr Colin Bennetts, preached in German after the Frauenkirche re-consecration.
The Rev Dr Paul Oestreicher, a veteran Christian peace campaigner and former director of international ministry at Coventry Cathedral, described the Lutheran Cathedral of Our Lady as 'a beacon of hope' in a world still ravaged by division and conflict.
On 13 February 1945 the RAF killed at least 35,000 people in a bombing raid on Dresden which has been described as among the most shameful acts of the war.
It also reduced one of Europe's finest cultural centres to a graveyard. Weakened by the intense heat, the cathedral collapsed the next day.
The Frauenkirche's black stones and two remaining jagged pillars have become a place of peace pilgrimage over the last 50 years.
It was the place where the dissident and human rights groups behind East Germany's non-violent 1989 revolution held silent vigils.
Dr Oestreicher, who is also a canon emeritus of Coventry Cathedral and a founder of the Dresden Trust explained: 'The golden orb and cross atop the Frauenkirche is a gift of the British people. It was made by Alan Smith, the son of a pilot in the Dresden raid.'
He continued: 'Now the challenge to fill this masterpiece with life that reaches out to the world begins anew.'
Peace workers say that Dresden's Lutheran cathedral, along with its Catholic counterpart and the Anglican building in Coventry, show that faith can be a source of hope rather than conflict in today's world.
On the anniversary of Dresden's destruction in February, the Frauenkirche was received into the Community of the Cross of Nails, Coventry Cathedral's worldwide network of peace and reconciliation centres.