Moving commemoration of the flood disaster victims
Western Germany was most seriously affected by the extreme weather in July, which destroyed houses, streets, bridges and schools. More than 180 people died and hundreds were injured. Many lost all their possessions. The major churches commemorated the victims of the flood disaster with an ecumenical service in Aachen Cathedral on Saturday. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel were among those who attended.
“On this day, we are united in our mourning. We feel for those of you who have been been affected so severely,” the Federal President emphasised in his speech following the service. Steinmeier gave his assurance: “You are not alone. We hear you. We won't forget you.”
In addition to the Federal President and the Federal Chancellor, the service was also attended by the President of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble, the President of the Bundesrat, Reiner Haselhoff , and the President of the Federal Constitutional Court, Stephan Harbarth. The attendees also included the state premier of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer, and the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet. These two federal states were hit particularly hard by the extreme weather.
Shared mourning with European neighbours
The commemoration service was held in Aachen as a reminder that neighbouring regions in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were also severely affected by the disaster. “As Europeans, we mourn together and we stand together in our hour of need,” said Federal President Steinmeier.
The service was conducted by Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, President of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Bishop Georg Bätzing, President of the German Bishops’ Conference, and Archpriest Radu Constantin Miron, President of the Association of Christian Churches in Germany. Representatives of the Jewish and Muslim faiths also took part in the service.
“The flood disaster has wiped out lives and destroyed livelihoods. The many dead, the mourners and all those who are now left with their existence in ruins should not be forgotten,” said Bishop Bedford-Strohm. In his sermon, Bishop Bätzing said: “Mourning for those we have lost takes time, and it will require incredible strength to rebuild and start again,” adding that comfort was provided by “hands that give support, hands that have rescued people from their homes, hands that are there to provide a reassuring embrace when tears flow and helping hands that clear away rubble and dirt”.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to the flood-hit areas again in early September to gain a first-hand impression of the damage caused by the flood disaster and the ongoing reconstruction work.