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About 1,000 people gathered to remember the victims of Germanwings Flight 9525. Although many had asked for a plural ceremony, it was a Catholic service. Evangelical, Jewish and Muslim representatives only spoke at the end of the ceremony.
More than 500 of the relatives of the 150 people who died in the Germanwings flight 4U9525 crashed into the French Alps, have gathered in Barcelona to pay tribute to their loved ones. After days of discussions, the memorial ended up being a Catholic mass, with other confessions only taking part at the very end of the ceremony.
National and local Spanish authorities were present at the funeral, including the king Felipe VI, the Queen Letizia, Mariano Rajoy, the President of Spain, and Artur Mas, the president of Catalonia, along with the local representatives of the Evangelical Jewish and Muslim communities, and Lufthansa and Germanwings officials.
It has been a private service, only for the families of the victims, but the teachers and students of the Catalan high school that made the interchange with the Joseph-Koenig school in Haltern, which lost 16 pupils and two teachers, and representatives of all the doctors, psychologists, police, firemen, etc, who helped in the rescue operation, were present in the funeral too.
The funeral, which was delivered in six languages, was broadcasted worldwide by the Spanish public television from the Sacred Family temple in Barcelona.
“WE HAVE YOUR SORROW IN OUR HEARTS”
Like in the funeral held in Cologne, a candle for every life lost, including Lubitz’s, has been placed on the altar, this time by the students of the Llinars del Vallès high school.
At the beginning of the service, led by the Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach, several hymns have been interpreted in different languages, and an opera singer from the Choir of Montserrat has made a musical number. A Ukrainian priest has sung the gospel in Greek, in representation of one of the victims who was from Ukraine.
Cardinal Sistach has started his homily remembering the victims of the Nepal earthquake and the Mediterranean disaster. His homily has been in Catalan and Spanish, quoting the Paul epistle to the Romans that say that if we live, we live for God, and if we died, we die for God, the Beatitudes, and Psalm 23.
He has said to all the families of the victims that “we all have your sorrow in our hearts and pray for you”. After Sistach´s words, members of the victims’ families and friends have prayed in different languages.
EVANGELICALS, JEWS AND MUSLIMS
At the end of the mass, the representatives of the Evangelical, Jewish and Muslim faith have had the opportunity to share some words.
Guillem Correa, the General Secretary of the Evangelical Council of Catalonia, has sent the love and the prayers of the Evangelical community to the victims and talked about how we “can find hope and love in Christ, because He told us to come to Him if we are tired and sad.”
Jorge Budman was the representative of the Jewish community. He has expressed his conviction that “we are all together in this, because no matter what religion we belong to, in Barcelona we all live together in peace.” “God did not create a religion, he created men and women and he gave us the hope of a future”, he has added.
The Muslims have been represented by Mohamed Halhul Muslim, who shared “the deep sorrow of the Muslim community for the accident”, he also thanked the work of all the people who helped in the rescue, and asked “Allah for peace, hope and strength for the love ones of the victims.”
After the service, the King and the Queen, the Archbishop of Barcelona, Mariano Rajoy and Artur Mas, and the 3 representatives of the other religious communities have personally given their condolences to each member of the victims’ families.
EVANGELICALS AND CATHOLICS ASKED FOR A MULTIDENOMINATIONAL SERVICE
Thomas Bucher, secretary general of the European Evangelical Alliance has told Evangelical Focus his surprise for a “catholic only” memorial service. European evangelicals “expected more respect towards victims who were not from a Catholic background”, he said.
The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain (FEREDE in Spanish), also published a statement days ago, rejecting the idea that a state funeral consist in “a religious service of only one denomination”.
FEREDE believed that organizing a multidenominational service would have been “a unique opportunity to show, not only the Spanish society, but also the rest of the world, how much they respect diversity. But they only admitted the anachronistic demands of a part of the Catholic Church that is still so powerful.”
The President and the General Secretary of FEREDE also sent a letter to the Spanish Vice-President, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria, asking her that “the memorial of the Germanwings victims would be an institutional ceremony, following the principles of neutrality and non-confessional state included in the Constitution.”
Jaume Llenas, Spanish Evangelical Alliance’s General Secretary, wrote an article in Protestante Digital, commenting: “I am ashamed of my country. The Catholic hierarchy has built this country believing they have the monopoly of the people’s beliefs, rejecting all those who are not Catholic, and they have used the State to repress, quiet and even physically remove those who are not of their faith.”
Opinions supporting a multidenominational service have also been heard from the Catalonian government: its Vice-president, Joana Ortega, has lamented “that it will no be a multidenominational service”, although she has appreciated “the fact that there will be representatives of the Evangelical Jewish and Muslim communities.”
Església Plural, a Catalonian Catholic group, also expressed its opposition to the Catholic funeral: “We are ashamed and embarrassed for what we consider an imposition of the Barcelona Archbishopric, they have not respected other beliefs that the victims may have.”