“The dead in the Mediterranean are Christ”, German cardinal Reinhard Marx has declared as he deplored the “scandal” that is the fact that refugees continue to drown attempting to cross into Europe.

Driving the news

“The people who drown in the Mediterranean are the tests of the Christian West”, Marx, German Bishops’ Conference President, warned in a full-to-capacity ecumenical memorial service for dead refugees in Munich’s Cathedral of Our Lady December 14.

Although the Churches must not play politics on the migrant crisis, it is important that they speak out, the close adviser to Pope Francis continued.

“We can make it clear where the wounds in the world are”, Marx insisted of the Churches’ role to play in the ongoing tragedy in the Mediterranean, which even Pope Francis has likened to a refugee “cemetery”.

Christ identified “with everyone who becomes a victim”, the cardinal affirmed.

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Marx was joined at the memorial service by Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Imam Benjamin Idriz and Greek Orthodox Bishop Vasilios of Aristi.

Those religious leaders heard the names of dead refugees read out in the cathedral for an hour before the memorial service.

“We read these names so that they would not be forgotten and would die a second time”, explained Bedford-Strohm.

The Lutheran bishop, who is also Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), also defended EKD involvement in rescue operations in the Mediterranean, which have extended to floating its own vessel to save refugees from drowning.

Solutions like the EKD’s can’t replace organised political initiatives to rescue refugees, “but we have to hold politicians accountable and help people who are in mortal danger”, the Lutheran bishop insisted.

With Marx, Bedford-Strohm thanked the search teams who have “brought people to safe havens in the Mediterranean” or who are otherwise involved in helping refugees, some of which rescuers were present at the vigil Saturday, including the crews of the Sea-Eye and Resq-Ship relief boats.

Why it matters

According to UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) figures, more than 19,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean between 2014 and this December trying to cross to Europe.

To prevent such tragedies in the future, Cardinal Marx gave a series of five “simple, simple principles” that should guide European politics on the refugee and migrant issue.

“Nobody dies on our European external borders.

“Everyone who comes to the border is treated humanely.

“Every asylum seeker gets a fair hearing.

“Nobody is sent back where death and destruction are imminent.

“And we do everything in the countries of origin of the migrants so that there are prospects for the people”, Marx insisted, to the applause of attendees at the vigil.

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