The Dean of Westminster has said the Christchurch mosques attack that brought “horror and death” to New Zealand must not drive apart friends of different religions.
Dr John Hall’s comments about the terrorist shootings were made in his address at the Anzac Day Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey, which honoured New Zealand and Australia’s war dead.
The Duke of Sussex made a surprise appearance at the event, alongside the Duchess of Cambridge, which was only announced a few hours before the congregation arrived.
Harry had always planned to attend the annual service as long as his wife’s pregnancy allowed it, and his appearance suggested Meghan, who has not been seen publicly for some weeks, was not due to give birth imminently.
During his address to a congregation which included the Queen’s cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, and featured many Australian and New Zealand expats, the Dean spoke about the recent “suffering” in Christchurch.
He said: “A city that when I was a boy seemed to me to epitomise the closeness between New Zealand and England.
“To the destructive earthquakes there eight years ago, ripping the heart out of the centre of the city, has now been added the violent assault on two mosques last month, causing the death of 46 men and four women, and the injury of another 50 or more people.
“This solitary act of aggression, bringing horror and death to a country at peace, must not drive apart the close friendships and associations between those of different religious faiths.”
The Duke of Cambridge is in New Zealand on a two-day visit to meet survivors of the attack and their families, members of the emergency services, and Muslim community leaders.
He also attend a service marking Anzac Day – April 25 – which commemorates the anniversary of the start of the First World War Gallipoli landings, and is a national day of remembrance for Australia and New Zealand.
The Dean gave a grim roll call of the tens of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders killed during the 1914-18 war and other groups.
He went on to say: “It is salutary to remind ourselves that only 20 years after the end of the so-called Great War the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain was in Munich, hoping to negotiate with Adolf Hitler a means of keeping the peace – it was not to be.”
The congregation listened as the last post was sounded and Turkey’s Ambassador Umit Yalcin read the famous words of modern Turkey’s founder, Kemal Ataturk, from Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli peninsula.
It begins: “Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.”
Thousands of Anzac troops – Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – died in the ill-fated 1915 Gallipoli campaign.
Waves of Allied forces launched an amphibious attack on the strategically important Turkish peninsula, which was key to controlling the Dardanelles straits, the crucial route to the Black Sea and Russia.
But the plan backed by Winston Churchill, then first lord of the admiralty, was flawed and the campaign, which faced a heroic defence by the Turks, led to stalemate and withdrawal eight months later.
Its legacy is the celebration of the “Anzac spirit” – courage, endurance, initiative, discipline and mateship – shown by the Antipodean troops.