Germany honours Bishop of Coventry for 'remarkable contribution' to peace and reconciliation

Bishop Christopher Cocksworth receiving the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit at the German Embassy in London on 1 October 2021.

The Bishop of Coventry has received one of Germany's highest awards in recognition of his peace and reconciliation work. 

Dr Christopher Cocksworth has been Bishop of Coventry since 2008. Coventry was one of Britain's worst hit cities during World War II, with the city centre mostly destroyed by the German Luftwaffe in November 1940.

The destruction extended to St Michael's Cathedral which was rebuilt but with the bombed out ruins remaining as a monument to the losses of World War II.

The diocese's close connection to the devastation of war has inspired decades of peace and reconciliation work, and part of this legacy has been a strong commitment to fostering friendly relations between Germany and Britain. 

On a personal level, Bishop Cocksworth is actively involved in Coventry's twinnings with the German cities of Kiel and Dresden, and he also serves as an ex-officio trustee of the Frauenkirche Dresden Foundation, Patron of the International Friendship and Reconciliation Trust, and Patron of the Dresden Trust.

The Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit was conferred on Dr Cocksworth at the German Embassy in London on Friday.

The embassy said the bishop was being honoured because of his "enduring" commitment to German-British relations, and his "tireless efforts" and "remarkable contribution, based on deep personal conviction, to fostering understanding between nations and peace in Europe".

Paying tribute at the award ceremony, German Ambassador to Britain Andreas Michaelis said, "You are an outstanding bridge-builder, an ardent champion of reconciliation and peace, and a staunch and inspirational campaigner against prejudice and injustice.

"You nurture the spiritual legacy of reconciliation through your very close ties with Germany as well as your inspiring dedication to Coventry's twinnings with Kiel and Dresden."

In response, Bishop Cocksworth said it was "a very great joy" to receive the award. 

"I receive it with thanksgiving for the part that the people of Coventry have played – through the work of the cathedral, the City Council and a host of other institutional and personal relationships – in the long road to lasting reconciliation between nations that once fought each other in two world wars," he said. 

"I have had the pleasure of meeting a number of Presidents of Germany over my years as Bishop of Coventry and I have a particular respect for President Steinmeier, and I am also grateful for the kindness, hospitality and support of Ambassador Michaelis.

"I look forward to working for the deepening of relationships between the UK and Germany through Coventry Cathedral, and the International Community of the Cross of Nails."