Father Richard Henkes SAC (1900-1945)

Beatification of Father Richard Henkes SAC

As Pope Francis announced in Rome on December 21st, 2018, Fr Richard Henkes was to be beatified. The feast is going to take place on September 15th, 2019 in Limburg, Germany.

After a serious amount of effort taken both in Germany and the Czech Republic, Dr. Franz Kamphaus, bishop of Limburg, could solemnly open the process of beatification for Fr. Richard Henkes SAC and finish it in 2007. The sealed files were brought to Rome to be examined by the Congregation for Canonization. They were internalized by the body on March 13th, 2009. This was when the actual process of beatification started.
Supported by relator Prof. Dr. Zdzislaw-Josef Kijas, a postitio was compiled and translated into Italian in order to start the process properly. This issue was handed over to the congregation in Rome, checked by a committee of historians and accepted by them. Afterwards the committee of theologists also approved of the beatification of Fr. Henkes.

Richard Henkes was born on May 26th, 1900 in the German village of Ruppach/ Westerwald. He joined the Pallottines in Vallendar to become a priest. In 1918 he was called up for military service and finished his A levels in 1919. Afterwards he joined the Pallottines in Limburg. He had his first consecration in 1921, was ordained priest in 1925 and became a teacher in Schönstatt in 1926. A duty which was interrupted by a severe pulmonary TB. In 1931 he was transferred to teach in Katscher/ Upper Slesia and afterwards to Frankenstein/ Slesia.

A Warrior for Truth and Veridicality

After the Nazis seizure of power, the religious dispute with National Socialism became his second big vocation. Bravely, Fr. Henkes represented the values of Christianity at school, in numerous religious exercises for the youths and in his preaching, too. It was as early as 1937 when he was firstly denounced because of one of his homilies; he had to stand trial at a special court in Breslau because of a supposed vilification of the “Führer”. There was no verdict then, however due to an amnesia after the connection of Austria to the “German Reich”.

The superiors took the endangered confrere from teaching in 1938 and Fr. Henkes went on working as a youth chaplain, a master for religious exercises, particularly in Branitz, and as a famous preacher in all of Upper Slesia. His last engagement was the one as a priest’s representative in the town of Strandorf (from 1941 to 1943). Due to these activities and his open language he became more and more the focus of attention of the Nazi authorities. He was interrogated and threatened by the Gestapo again and again.

He voluntarily gave his Life at the Concentration Camp of Dachau

Fr. Richard Henkes was arrested by the Gestapo in Ratibor/ Upper Slesia on May 8th, 1943 due to a sermonize he had given in Branitz before. He was then deported to the concentration camp of Dachau in Bavaria. There, he had to do compulsory labor like all the other prisoners. He remained strong in faith, though, shared his food with many others and encouraged his fellow prisoners. It was there where he met the later archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Josef Beran. Though it wasn’t easy for him he followed on his studies of the Czech language with him. A task he had already started in Strandorf as he intended to stay in the east after the war proceeding on his duty as a priest.

From 1944 onwards he worked as a canteen operator and secret preacher on block 17, where many Czech people were put up. He himself lived on the priest’s block, #26. In the late months of 1944, the second big typhus epidemic spread in the concentration camp, on block 17, too. Though knowing that this could have fatal consequences for him, Fr. Henkes volunteered for caring for the typhus patients on block 17. He let himself be locked up with them. After 8 weeks approx., he got infected himself and within five days he was carried of by the illness. He died on February 22nd, 1945.

The Pallottines consider his sacrifice as the one of a brave warrior and as a testimony for the Christian faith as well as a martyr of Christian charity. The Pallottines and the Czech bishops trust that Fr. Richard Henkes and the Czech archbishop Josef Beran will function as connecting links of reconciliation between Czech, German and Polish people; as Fr. Henkes most important places of activity now belong to Poland and the Czech Republic.

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