Archbishop of York sends Christmas message to troops

The Archbishop of York has sent a message of support to troops separated from their families this Christmas describing them as "real heroes" and the "bravest and best" armed forces in the world.

Dr John Sentamu, who is the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, said the country owed a "massive debt of gratitude" to troops serving in countries such as Afghanistan.

"I want to say a big 'thank you' to all our armed services," he said.

"You are the best and bravest servicemen in the world and we all owe

you a massive debt of gratitude for what you do.

"It must be so hard to leave the ones you love behind to go out and serve your country - putting your lives at risk on a daily basis to protect our freedoms. You are real heroes.

"We are all very proud of the contribution you are making for our country. We will continue to keep you in our thoughts and I pray each and egvery one of you will return home safely."

The Archbishop's remarks were made in a specially recorded video message for the Faces for the Forces campaign aimed at collecting 500,000 goodwill messages by Christmas.

Other celebrity contributors include political leaders David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, as well as comedian Dawn French, footballer Frank Lampard, media personality Sharon Osbourne, and actor James Nesbitt.

Dr Sentamu's recording will form part of a film that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will send to all barracks in Afghanistan and other areas of the world.

The campaign on the personal video messaging service WinkBall.com can be viewed on the internet or via DVDs distributed by the MoD.

A spokeswoman for Faces For the Forces said the campaign had a dual aim of providing support to troops and their families at home.

She said: "It is a way of giving a morale boost to the troops and showing them that people have not forgotten about them whilst they are away.

"It is also a way for families to feel that people at home are not taking them for granted and have not forgotten them.

"Families can also leave messages as well."

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