“As Christians, we resist the fact that in our country the abortion of hundreds of thousands is seen as normal for a liberal, humane, and enlightened society.” Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the archbishop of Cologne, Germany, spoke these forthright words in a homily for the Feast of Holy Innocents in the Cathedral of Cologne.
“The life of a person, stretching from the first moment of his existence until the last moment, is a sacred good,” Woelki preached. “That is why nobody has the right to dispose of human life, including in the first 12 weeks.” Making a strong statement against abortion from the pulpit is something not particularly common in Germany, even in the Catholic Church. Many priests are constrained from speaking or preaching frankly on the pro-life position of the Church due to fear of defamation on the part of their faithful or even their own bishop.
The Holy Innocents is a feast with scriptural evidence in Matthew (2:16-18) and recalls the event whereupon King Herod ordered a massacre of innocent children to prevent the King of the Jews from rising and overpowering him. The feast is kept within the octave of Christmas because the Holy Innocents gave their life for the newborn Savior. Woelki lamented the number of abortions: “In Germany alone for many years already, we have spoken of 100,000 cases and more.” Recent statistics have shown that the rate of abortion in Germany is on the rise again after years of decline.
His homily was not reduced to defending the innocent unborn but also women in general: “It is evident that the life and dignity of hundreds of women are threatened by marauding groups of young men with different migration backgrounds.” That was a reference to sexual assaults in Germany on New Year’s Eve 2015 when 24 rapes and numerous assaults were registered by police, initiating a heated discussion regarding the country’s immigrant policy. Woelki went on to say in the homily that those who speak of a “limit” in accepting migrants “have not understood what it means to be humane.”