SHOCKED Christians gathered for ecumenical prayer in Trier, Germany, on Tuesday evening, hours after a driver ploughed his SUV at high speed into Christmas shoppers in a kilometre-long run through the town’s pedestrian zone, killing five people and injuring many more.
Soon after the incident, which occurred at 1.45 p.m., the Roman Catholic Trier Cathedral became the centre for mourners to gather: the Paschal candle was lit before the altar while the Bishop, the Most Revd Stephan Ackermann, announced that the doors were open to enable silent prayer and to light candles for the dead.
At 8 p.m. on Tuesday, church bells tolled throughout the city for those killed, as mourners gathered in parish churches. In the cathedral, Bishop Ackermann and a pastor, Dr Jörg Weber, of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, conducted an ecumenical service attended by 150 people. “We are stunned and in shock at the brutal act of violence,” Bishop Ackermann said.
The short service ended with an organ rendition of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s evening song, “By loving forces silently surrounded”.
Trier is considered the oldest city in Germany, and is home to the oldest Roman Catholic diocese in the country. The cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace are only a few metres away from the path taken by the perpetrator’s vehicle.
Speaking to journalists, Bishop Ackermann said: “Faith is a place to which we can turn with our experiences of being pushed to the limits. It is good if there are prayers, if there are songs that help us where we have no words. And, for believers, there is also the perspective that death does not have the last word.”
A 51-year-old local man was arrested. The prosecutor said that the suspect had drunk a significant amount of alcohol.