Nazis and German Catholics and Lutherans
By Frank Kaufmann, Friday, April 22, 2011
New York - Religious leaders must transcend those challenges that
threaten to erode our commitment and obligation to turn our world
from conflict and horror.
Religion News Service on April 19th reports an important
development in Christian, ecumenical relations.
The facts are this: Four German clergy, 3 Catholic priests and one
Lutheran minister were martyred ("beheaded in quick succession")
on Nov. 10, 1943 by the Nazi regime. The Vatican plans to beatify
Lutheran Pastor, Karl the priests, but not the Lutheran. (Beatification is a recognition
Christian Stellbrink accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person's entrance into
Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her
name (intercession of saints). Beatification is the third of the four steps in the
canonization process. A person who is beatified is given the title "Blessed".)
The article is fair, clear, and well written.
The RNS article notes that this Nazi horror turned out to be seminal to the birth and
healthy growth of Catholic-Lutheran ecumenism in Germany. The Vatican plan "is
testing that ecumenical spirit, and has some religious leaders worried that the event
could drive a wedge between the two communities."
Sometimes it is difficult for secular or laypeople to grasp the significance or urgency of
complicated, ecumenical challenges. Still however, the importance of such matters
should not be overlooked. The Vatican plan for beatification on June 25 is now seen
as threatening ecumenical relations. But this challenge should be seen as an
opportunity. It should not be missed by the Christian leaders and communities in
Germany affected by this turn of events.
It is the strong view of this writer that ecumenical leaders in Germany would shame
the honor of these fallen heroes should they allow the ecumenical advances they
have achieved to date to be undermined at this juncture. German Catholic and
Lutheran leaders and believers should not only to rise above the challenges
presented by the pending June 25 ceremony, but to the contrary should seize this
challenge as an opportunity to advance the cause of religious harmony and
collaboration even further.
Frank Kaufmann 04/22/11 page 1 of 3
While the slow pace of Christian ecumenism might cause people in our Twitter paced
world to yawn, even people with little or no interest in religion (perhaps even hostile to
religion) still recognize the pressing need for religions to overcome their differences,
and stop contributing to a world drowned in conflict. Just today Christian Science
Monitor reports that scores have been killed in Muslim-Christian violence after this
weekend's relatively clean presidential election
“Protests soon turned deadly, with churches, mosques, homes, and
businesses set ablaze in the northern cities of Kaduna and Kano. In Kaduna
on Tuesday, Christian neighborhoods were targeted, and known supporters
of Mr. Jonathan's ruling People's Democratic Party were burned alive and
hacked with machetes.
But what does this barbarism have to do with peaceful Germany, and differences
between two established Christian denominations so slim that it would be hard to slip
an envelope between them?
Well, not too long ago this paper thin difference fueled the decimation of all of
Europe in a war that lasted 3 decades, more than a generation "primarily on the
territory of modern Germany. Virtually all of the major European powers were
involved, and the economy of each was based on fighting the war. Civilian
populations were devastated. Estimates of civilian casualties are approximately 25-
30%, with deaths due to a combination of armed conflict, famine, and disease." Yes.
This was not a splinter, Islamist, terrorist gang in northern Nigeria. It was Lutherans and
Catholics in Germany.
How grand then is the contrast to these accounts of devastating innocent life and
precious treasure shown by four, noble clergymen who walked the path of ultimate
self-sacrifice for righteousness sake in the footsteps of their Lord. Catholic priests
Johannes Prassek, Hermann Lange, and Eduard Mueller, and Lutheran pastor Karl
Friedrich Stellbrink, stood, spoke, walked, and eventually offered their very lives like
Jesus, without fear nor regret for the sake of their fellows, that evil be overcome.
These men, servants of Christ all, reminded Germans then, and have continued to do
so ever since, that following Jesus is a greater good than all the obstinacy that freezes
itself into the very denominations and divisions feared and decried by Jesus in his
dying hour (John 17:21).
It should be known that these challenges faced by these Catholics and Lutheran,
ecumenical activists are difficult, and that the Vatican beatification plan that divides
these people of one heart does not make their work any more easy. The issues they
face should not be seen simplistically, nor dismissed as archaic or passe. But despite
the complexity, by whatever means and by all means, Catholic and Lutheran leaders
and believers must continue to honor our four, saintly, fallen brothers in Christ who
together as one, revealed the power of Christ in our time.
Frank Kaufmann 04/22/11 page 2 of 3
The Vatican must, before June 25, find all possible ways within the bounds of Canon
Law to honor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink as fully and as gloriously as possible. Lutherans in
the mean time should attend en masse if allowed (they should be unconditionally
and unequivocally invited) to attend the ceremony for the beatification of Catholic
priests Johannes Prassek, Hermann Lange, Eduard Mueller. Ink should flow onto the
pages from all sides concerned, and even in the secular press to honor the beauty of
faith, and the enduring power of Christ to stand without fear or compromise in the
face of evil.
Contemporary German leaders, patiently, devotedly and faithfully walking the path
of serious ecumenism, must find the way to transcend these passing challenges and
obstacles to harmony. We look to you to to tear away the folly of division thread by
thread. We greatly need this now; water on our world afire.
Published here: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/305896
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