Anti-Nazi German Noblemen celebrated by the Order of Malta in Christchurch
Report by Bevan Killick
On Thursday 22 March, the Feast of Blessed Clemens August Graf (Count) von Galen was celebrated in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Mass was celebrated by the Most Reverend Paul Martin SM DD, Bishop of Christchurch, at the Pro Cathedral, assisted by the Pro Cathedral Administrator, Fr Chris Friel.
Bishop Paul Martin introduced the Mass by reading a brief biography of the Blessed Clemens, a German count, Bishop of Münster, Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and Member of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jersualem or Rhodes and or Malta (“Order of Malta”). Blessed Clemens lived between 16 March 1878 and 22 March 1946.
During World War II, Blessed Clemens led Catholic protest against Nazi euthanasia and denounced Gestapo lawlessness and the persecution of the Church. In July and August 1941, Blessed Clemens preached against the general lawlessness of the Gestapo, the confiscation of religious property, and the T4 Program instituted by Hitler in 1939—a program involving the systematic murder of more than 70,000 sick, elderly, mentally retarded, physically infirm, emotionally distraught, and disabled Germans, who were an embarrassment to the myth of Aryan supremacy. It seems we are on a similar slippery slope in New Zealand these days.
Reluctant to transform Blessed Clemens into a martyr, the Nazi government put him under virtual house arrest and deported priests serving in his diocese. The Nazis took violent retribution against at least three priests who had distributed Blessed Clemens’ sermons. Documents discovered later showed that the Nazis were close to a decision to hang Blessed Clemens but decided to wait until they achieved a victory in World War II. Blessed Clemens was named a cardinal on 18 February 1946. On 9 October 2005, he was beatified by the Church, largely because of his role in opposing the T4 Program.
The Mass concluded with Bishop Paul Martin presenting certificates of membership to four recent members of the Order of Malta. The certificates were signed in Rome by the Grand Chancellor of the Order of Malta, Albrecht, Freiherr (Baron) von Boeselanger, himself a member of the German nobility. Baron von Boeselager is the son of Georg Freiherr von Boeselager who was part of the 20 July Plot to assassinate Adolf Hilter. This plot was immortalised by the 2009 film Valkyrie staring Tom Cruise.
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