Adapted from Gavin Drake, ACNS
Bishops from the Church of England and the Episcopal Church with responsibility for churches in Europe have responded to an evening terror attack Dec. 19 on a Christmas market in Berlin. After the vehicle plowed into crowds in the market, killing 12 people and injuring many dozens more, police found a Polish truck driver in the cab who had earlier been shot and stabbed to death.
Police in Germany arrested a man near the scene on suspicion of being involved. Die Welt, citing unnamed security sources, wrote in the afternoon that the attacker was still thought to be at large and armed.
The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, tweeted an image of a heart-shaped German flag. “Ich bin ein Berliner,” said the image’s caption, quoting the iconic remark by President John F. Kennedy in June 1963.
Bishop Whalon added: “Wir sind mit Ihnen. Parisern verstehen und Ihr Leiden teilen” (“We are with you. Parisians understand and share your suffering”).
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 Rt. Rev. David Hamid, Suffragan Bishop in Europe, sent a message to the Rev. Christopher Jage-Bowler, chaplain of St. George’s: “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 attack on the Christmas market was near Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The memorial 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.