State visit of the President of the United States of America and Mrs George W Bush
Thursday, 20th November 2003
The Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr Wesley Carr welcomed President Bush and Mrs George W Bush to Westminster Abbey today and invited him to lay a wreath on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
Afterwards The President and The First Lady signed The Distinguished Visitor's Book and received the gift of a book about the Abbey written by Walter Annenberg, the American Ambassador to London in 1972.
Welcoming Mr Bush, Dr Carr said:
My colleagues of the Chapter and the College welcome you to Westminster Abbey this morning.
We stand at one of the most notable memorials in the Abbey, that to the Unknown Warrior. This anonymous British soldier was interred here to represent all those who never returned from the battlefields of the First World War and who lie deep in Flanders' mud.
Your own country did him the honour of awarding him the Congressional Medal of Honour, which hangs on the pillar to our right. Over the years he has become a symbol of all who perished in war. This morning we especially hold before God those from our two nations who have recently been killed in Iraq.
On that war, as you know, Mr President, people are divided - as they should be in a mature democracy. But whatever our views, all can and do unite in our respect for those who serve in the armed forces and may pay with their lives. Today each will be known to someone, but to most of us they, like this soldier before us, are unknown but not forgotten.
The Grave of the Unknown Warrior is a perpetual reminder of our past. But it is also the place where each year our confidence in peace is affirmed, as it was two weeks ago, on Remembrance Sunday. In that spirit of remembrance, thanksgiving, repentance and confidence in the future, I invite you this morning, Mr President, to lay your wreath on the grave of the Unknown Warrior.
After The President had placed the wreath there was a short period of silence. Dr Carr then offered a prayer:
God of the nations, whose kingdom rules over all, have mercy on our broken and divided world. Shed abroad your peace in the hearts of all people and banish from them the spirit that makes for war; that all races and people may learn to live as members of one family and in obedience to your laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.