Pater Richard Henkes wurde für seine offenen Worte gegen die Nazi-Ideologie im Vernichtungslager Dachau inhaftiert.

"Our time needs Christians like Richard Henkes"

Memorial Mass for the Blessed Pallottine Father in Limburg

“The 1920s are probably comparable to the 21st century”, said Father Alexander Holzbach in his homily during the Holy Mass on 21 February. More than 80 faithful celebrated the memorial day of Blessed Richard Henkes in St Mary’s Church of the Pallottine Fathers in Limburg together with the brothers and fathers of the mission house.

Rector Holzbach said: “Ten or twenty years ago, I couldn’t put myself in the shoes of Father Henkes as well as I can today”. The Blessed Pallottine priest was sensitive to the evil spirit of the growing National Socialism at the end of the 1920s and realised, at the latest when it came to power, that its image of humanity was not compatible with the Christian one. The preacher said: “For Father Henkes it was clear that there was no master race and no second-class people, that healthy people had no more value than the sick and disabled and therefore had no ‘greater right to life’. He was convinced of the “uniquely high dignity of all human beings”. Father Henkes defended this conviction in the pulpit, in the school and as a retreat leader.

“His family and confreres called this unreasonable and unwise. There was a legitimate concern. At the same time, we don’t know how many people Father Henkes strengthened inwardly to stay on the path of their faith, on the path of the Christian image of man, and to live it as well as possible in everyday life,” said Father Holzbach. That’s why it was so important to Father Henkes during his time as parish priest in Strandorf (now in the Czech Republic) that Germans and Czechs should meet as equals. And the idea of reconciliation. That is why he learnt Czech, hoping to be able to work there after the war.

Predigt von Pater Alexander Holzbach bei der Gedenkfeier für Pater Henkes 2024
Einzelsegen mit dem Reliquiar bei der Gedenkfeier für Pater Richard Henkes 2024

“Be careful! You’d better keep your mouth shut!”

Father Holzbach: “During this time Richard Henkes was preoccupied with the question: will the people entrusted to him succumb to the tempting spirit of the times with its seductive arguments, or will they remain faithful to the faith, to the Church and to the Christian image of man? In these difficult times, Richard Henkes has always dared to speak out, despite the risks.
The preacher then looked to the present and asked: “What do people in Russia or other dictatorial systems do when they point out injustices? Don’t family and friends say: Be careful? Better keep your mouth shut? And there will be people everywhere who, like Richard Henkes, say: ‘Someone has to be there to say it! And they make themselves vulnerable, risking their freedom and their lives, as we know from recent history.

What would Richard Henkes say?

Father Holzbach continued: “What would Richard Henkes say to the fact that Jews in this country are once again afraid to say and live that they are Jews? That people and parties in this country are emphasising that ‘these people’ belong to us and ‘those people’ don’t?”.
The rector concluded his sermon: “Our time needs Christians of the calibre and stature of Richard Henkes, who are attentive to the Christian view of humanity and the equal dignity of all people, because we are all created in the image of God, as the Bible says and as Vincent Pallotti wrote in the Foundation’s handbook. In this respect, Richard Henkes was a good Pallottine, a good priest, a good Christian, whom we rightly honour here today, in gratitude for his life and work until his death, and as an inspiration for us today. Amen”.

Prayer at the stele and individual blessing with the reliquary

After the homily, the Rector went to the Henkes memorial in the Pieta Chapel of St Mary’s Church and prayed for the various intentions of those present (see box below). After the celebration of the Eucharist, he gave the individual blessing with the Henkes reliquary, which was linked to the request for ever new strength for reconciliation.

“Passion for God and man” – Conference by Fr Hubert Lenz

The day before, Fr Hubert Lenz had prepared the brothers and fathers of the mission house for the day of commemoration of the Blessed. The former professor of philosophy founded the “Attitude Today” Foundation in Vallendar to keep alive and update the message of Fr Henkes’ life and death. In his talk, he linked the attitudes of Vincent Pallotti and Richard Henkes. Both were marked by an incredible passion for God and for people. There were extremely difficult moments in both their lives. “Their trust in God, their faith in their vocation and mission, their love for people helped them not to give up.

Prayer at the reliquary stele of Fr Richard Henkes

Lord our God, we thank you for having called Richard Henkes into the community of St. Vincent Pallotti, for being an example for us today by his attitude, his life and his death.

We come to you with our intentions at the place of his veneration in the Pieta Chapel of St Mary’s Church:

We think of the brothers and fathers of our community throughout the world.
We think of all the people who are devoted to us Pallottines,
who walk with us in the following of your Son
in the communion of the Church and its mission.
We remember our Bishop George,
who was the first to pray in this place after his beatification,
who has a great responsibility for the Church of our diocese and of our country.
and our country.
We think of all those who, together with him, are seeking ways to restore trust in the Church and to lead it into a good future.
We think of the sick and the suffering who hope in our prayers,
and all those who care for them in hospitals, homes and families.
We remember the many who have lost hope, who have forgotten how to fold their hands,
who have lost their faith.
Move the hearts of all those who, in their personal lives and in the conflicts of our time
and in the conflicts of our time
seek and give forgiveness.
Look at those who honour Blessed Richard Henkes,
who have come here to light a candle.
Look at the Christians and all the people who live in the places where he worked,
in Germany, in Poland, in the Czech Republic.
Look at those who, in the totalitarian systems of our time, are discriminated against and deprived of their freedom because of their faith, because of their political beliefs, who are unjustly imprisoned or locked up in camps.
Think of the suffering people in the war in Ukraine and Gaza,
the families of the dead on all sides, the people suffering under terror
in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Good and eternal God,
be with us as we celebrate the Eucharist together, so that, like Fr Henkes, we may draw comfort and strength for our lives from this celebration.

Gedenktag des Seligen Pater Richard Henkes in Limburg an der Lahn 2024

Report: Father Alexander Holzbach
Pictures: Father Bernhard Küpper


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