End of World War II in Europe marked with call for peace

 A priest distributing Communion to soldiers during World War II in Russia. Photo: CNS/KNA

BERLIN (CNS): In a joint service marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe on May 8, Christian Churches in Germany issued a call for a commitment to work for peace, reported the German Catholic news agency, KNA.

At the celebration in the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom), Bishop Georg Batzing of Limburg, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, and Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, council president of the Protestant Church in Germany, spoke against demands for ending commemorations of Germany’s past.

During the service, Avitall Gerstetter, a female cantor from the Jewish community, read passages from the Bible and sang a song in Hebrew, KNA reported.

The cathedral is the largest Protestant church in Germany and the burial site for many Prussian rulers and monarchs. Besides church services, it is also the venue for state occasions. Due to the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis, the service took place without a congregation in attendance, but was broadcast live on national television.

Bishop Batzing recalled the 50 million dead just in Europe alone, above all the “millions of people who were murdered in the National Socialists’ concentration camps and extermination camps: Jews, Sinti and Roma, political opponents.” This had been “a complete moral bankruptcy of Germany,” he said.

Bishop Bedford-Strohm stressed the ongoing German responsibility for the war. “Against any forgetting and against any relativising we say: Yes, we became guilty. We plunged all of Europe and large parts of the world into misery.”

But the guilt has not resulted in eternal rejection, Bishop Bedford-Strohm noted. “Our erstwhile enemies approached us again. They have become friends,” he said, and so he was thankful “that many of our Jewish brethren remained, that many returned to the country which had inflicted such incomprehensible things on them and reached out their hands in reconciliation.”

Bishop Batzing stressed that peace was not something that just simply gets organised. It needs people “who carry a hope inside because they are convinced they are not alone but rather that God himself, his spirit, is with them.” Today, he added, people were challenged by the wars in Syria and other nations in the Middle East and in Ukraine and by migrants losing their lives while crossing the Mediterranean.

In a declaration at the end of April, Germany’s Catholic bishops admitted to the transgressions of their predecessors during World War II.

“By not opposing the war with a clear-cut ‘no’ and instead with most of them boosting the will to hold out longer, they made themselves complicit in the war,” the 23-page statement said.

World War II in Europe ended on 7 May 1945, with the unconditional surrender of the German Reich. The official celebration is normally marked on May 8.

Related articles
Vatican police recalibrated mission during World War II

VATICAN (CNS): The Covid-19 coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic came at the worst time for scholars and historians who had been waiting Read more

Proposal would make abortion normal medical procedure

BRUSSELS (CNS): The Bishops’ Conference of Belgium criticised legislation to liberalise abortion by extending the right to 18 weeks’ gestation Read more

Poland marks centenary of Pope St. John Paul’s birth

WARSAW (CNS): Poland’s Catholic bishops urged citizens to learn from Pope St. John Paul II in coming to terms with Read more

Maronite Catholics help as more Lebanese slide into poverty

BEIRUT (CNS): Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic Church is drawing up a comprehensive social assistance and food aid plan to help needy Read more