Limburg, Germany, Sep 19, 2019 / 11:06 am
The ‘secret preacher of block 17’ who witnessed to Christ in a Nazi concentration camp was beatified this week in Limburg, Germany.
Blessed Father Richard Henkes was a German Pallottine priest denounced by the Nazis for his outspoken preaching. He died in Dachau concentration camp in 1945 while caring for prisoners sick with typhus.
“The real reformers of the Church are the blessed and the saints,” said Cardinal Kurt Koch at Henkes’ beatification on Sept. 19. “For we can only achieve the utmost externally, in structural terms, when we are also prepared to strive to achieve our utmost internally, in faith.”
“Love is not without sacrifice,” Koch said. “The Christian martyrdom is only real if it is realized as the supreme act of love for God and for one’s brothers and sisters.”
From the pulpit and the classroom, Fr. Henkes spoke out against the Nazi ideology and condemned the regime’s crimes against human dignity, focusing one homily on their killing of the disabled. Henkes was first denounced in 1937 for one of his homilies, for which he had to stand trial.
In the following years of World War II, Henkes was interrogated and threatened by the Gestapo again and again as he continued to work as a youth chaplain and retreat master.
“In the face of this neo-pagan ideology, Father Henkes surmised that wherever God is reduced to insignificance and pushed out of the public eye, man is also reduced to insignificance,” Koch said.
“Only when God is exalted through us human beings, when we do what Mary did in the Magnificat - Magnificat anima mea: Let God be exalted through my soul - wherever that takes place, there man is not reduced to insignificance, but is given a share in the greatness of God's love,” the cardinal said.