Bishop Wilmer against demolition of Church of Expiation near Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

This Church of Expiation of the Precious Blood was consecrated
to the memory of victims of unjust violence from all nations and
confession in the Bergen-Belsen Camp

The Catholic Bishop of Hildesheim, Heiner Wilmer, is against the demolition of the Church of Expiation near the former concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, which is in need of renovation and is used less and less. In a guest article for the Freiburg Herder Korrespondenz, he pleads for establishing new forms of remembrance at this site.

"A simple demolition of the Church of Expiation would send the wrong signal to society that the Church is done with the history of National Socialism and that we can simply - some would say finally - go on with business as usual," Wilmer writes. Instead, the place of worship could become a place of encounter, of joint reflection and prayer that violence does not have the last word.

When the Church first opened

The Diocese of Hildesheim has been discussing the future of the "Church of Expiation of the Precious Blood" in Bergen for several months. It was built in 1961 as a memorial and place of prayer for the tens of thousands of people who were murdered on the grounds of the former Bergen-Belsen camp. Among them was the Jewish child Anne Frank. Expiation here means taking upon oneself a punishment or penance on behalf of the perpetrators for the wrong committed, for example, through a prayer or a pilgrimage.

"The charism of the Church of Expiation has come into crisis over the years," Wilmer elaborates. A local Fraternity Expiation, to which up to 600 people belonged in the sixties and seventies, dissolved long ago. There are hardly any pilgrimages any more. The local community has shrunk considerably. In addition, the building is now visibly in need of renovation.

"We have to answer the question of what significance we attach to the spiritual heritage of the Church of Expiation and how we want to deal with it in the future," said the bishop. The seemingly difficult talk of expiation in tension with the spirit of the age represents "a productive challenge".

The Diocese of Hildesheim has been on an austerity course for many years. The Diocese includes a good 550,000 Catholics between the Harz Mountains and the North Sea, who form a minority in most areas. Since 2000, more than 60 churches have been deconsecrated and associated building complexes sold. Another 700 buildings are to be abandoned by 2030.

Cathcon: while the Church synods on and the Church cannot do something as fundamental as commemorate the Holocaust.

I have found the index (sadly not the whole document) of a leaflet on the Confraternity of Expiation. Leaving off these devotions were the start of the problem. The Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ was a feast, which had been in the General Roman Calendar from 1849 until removed in 1969.  The Blood that washes away are sins.

A reflection on the ministry of the Confraternity of Expiation at the Bergen-Belsen Memorial 5

The Church of Expiation of the Precious Blood 10

Statutes of the Confraternity of Expiation 12

The Daily Prayer of the Confraternity 15

Litany of the Precious Blood 16

Faith, Hope, Love 17

Various prayers 18

Litany of the Passion of Jesus 21

Litany of the Sacred Heart 23

Litany for the Departed 25

Heart of Jesus, full of mercy for sinners ... . 27

The Eternal High Priest and Saviour 28

Prayer for the forgiveness of sins 29

The Common Prayer 30

Sorrowful Mother 31

Hour of Prayer in Bergen-Belsen 33

The Seven Penitential Psalms 40

Way of the Cross 47

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