[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Bishops from the Church of England and the US-based Episcopal Church with responsibility for churches in Europe have responded to last night’s terror attack on a Christmas market in German’s capital Berlin. A Polish lorry driver was shot and killed and his lorry used to plough into the crowds enjoying the festive market, killing 12 people and injuring many more.
Police in Germany arrested a man near the scene on suspicion of being involved; but this afternoon the Die Welt newspaper, citing un-named security sources, said that the attacker is still thought to be at large and armed.
Mainland Europe is served by two overlapping Anglican jurisdictions: the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, part of the US-based Episcopal Church; and the Diocese in Europe, part of the Church of England.
The Paris-based Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, Pierre Whalon, tweeted an image (above) of the heart-shaped German flag, with the words: “Ich bin ein Berliner” – “I am a Berliner”, quoting the iconic phrase from a speech by US President John F Kennedy in what was then West Berlin in June 1963. Bishop Whalon posted, in German, “Wir sind mit Ihnen. Parisern verstehen und Ihr Leiden teilen” – “We are with you. Parisians understand and share your suffering.”
In an earlier Tweet he said that last night’s incident in Berlin resembled the July attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, on France’s south coast, which killed 86 people. In a lament published shortly after the Nice attack, he said that he was “sick and tired” of having to write reflections after terror attacks in Europe. “My heart goes out once again to a city battered and mauled by a kid with a gun. A few days ago, another town, Würzburg, and a boy with an axe. Last week it was a guy with a truck. Before that, with a knife, killing a mother and father in front of their three-year-old son. Before that, it was Brussels. And Paris. And Paris. And Toulouse.”
The Church of England’s Bishop in Europe, Robert Innes, said that he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the loss of life and injuries in last night’s attack. “At a time of preparation for Christmas, it feels all the more cruel that innocent people have suddenly been killed at what should be a time of joyful expectation,” he said. “I am mindful that many children may have witnessed this shocking event.
“This is not the first time this year that our diocese has witnessed multiple deaths, as people have been drawn together to celebrate and enjoy their cultural heritage: first in Nice in July; now in Berlin. Our response to this tragedy must be to re-affirm the angels’ message of peace that is at the heart of the Christmas story.
“My prayers are with all who are hurting, angry and bewildered. I also send my prayerful support to the people of St George’s Anglican Church Berlin.”
The suffragan Bishop in Europe, David Hamid, sent a message to the Chaplain of St George’s in Berlin, the Revd Christopher Jage-Bowler, saying: “It is alarming that there are similarities to the attack in Nice earlier this year. The shock and fear in the city must be palpable, given the location and nature of this attack. I hope that you, your family and the members of our community in the city are safe.
“In the face of this horrific attack I pray that the Advent hope will not be extinguished among the people, that the Son of Righteousness will bring comfort and healing, and that God will grant rest to those who have died. At this time of the year, so many families and individuals will find their lives emptied by this brutal attack. May the Christian and other faith leaders provide support and comfort for those who are affected, and may the authorities bring those responsible to justice.”
The remains of the tower of Berlin’s Kaiser Wilheim Memorial Church and the new blue-glass constructed Remembrance Church alongside and behind it.
Photo: Dr Kralle / Wikimedia
Last night’s attack on the Christmas market in Berlin was near the Remembrance Church, built on the site of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. At 6 pm tonight CET (5 pm GMT), in this Lutheran church, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is expected to attend a memorial service for the victims of the attack.
The Church, like Coventry Cathedral in England, was effectively destroyed by bombing during World War II. A modern church was built on the site and has since focused on international peace and reconciliation. In a sign of the reconciliation between the two communities, a Coventry Cross of Nails is on display in the building.