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April 12 , 2008

Priests In The Firing Line


The role of an army chaplain in war is an exceptionally difficult job and particularly in the hellish lunar landscape of the trenches of the First World War. Using the pseudonym René Gaëll, the author attempts to give an account of the life of a Catholic priest serving with the French troops in the frontline. He sees the men of his unit blown to pieces, mutilated by shell fire, wounded by gun shots, and all the while he attempts to assuage their suffering both physically and morally. In attempting to do so, he holds mass under shellfire, gives absolution in the trenches before men go over the top and confessions on the parapet. All the while the bullets and shells of the Germans do not distinguish between the horizon blue of the soldiers and the black of his cassock, and he sees fellow priests wounded and killed. An excellently descriptive book filled with the atmosphere of the trenches written by a brave and gallant man of the cloth.

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