German Cardinal's stunning gesture to mark refugee deaths

Powerful gesture

A German Cardinal has used a refugee boat as his altar to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, using the occasion to speak out against the harsh attitude by European leaders towards Middle East refugees, reports The Washington Post.

"Someone who lets people drown in the Mediterranean also drowns God — every day, thousands of times," said the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, at Mass yesterday.

Cardinal Woelki found these striking words to condemn Europe's increasingly tough attitude toward refugees. He spoke during a special service, which took place in one of the German city's main squares.

Cardinal Woelki also used a seven-metre-long former refugee boat as his altar for the service.

The boat had been recovered by the Maltese military during a search-and-rescue operation.

The Cardinal emphasised the significance of choosing the boat, saying that altars had always symbolised Jesus Christ. "To see those in need and help them is the task the Lord has given to us as Christians," said Cardinal Woelki.

He went on to suggest that those saying Islam was being abused as a religion should remember that Christianity had also cost people's lives in the past.

The symbolic gesture by one of Germany's most influential cardinals came the same day dozens of refugees were feared to have drowned while trying to reach European soil. It was at least the second boat to capsize within two days.

Photo: Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki celebrates Mass on a refugee boat serving as an altar in Roncalliplatz square in front of the cathedral in Cologne, Germany, on May 26 (European Pressphoto Agency)

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WorldViews: The stunning way a Catholic priest marked the deaths of refugees in the Mediterranean