"The World Needs Witnesses Like Schneider"

Feb 11, 2003 02:15 PM EST

ROME, Italy - Protestant theologian Paul Schneider (1897-1939), who became known as the "Buchenwald Preacher," was recently honored as a 20th-century martyr.

Schneider was commemorated during a February 1 ecumenical worship service organized by the international Sant'Egidio Community in the Basilica San Bartolomeo in Rome. The Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Cardinal Walter Kasper, President, [Vatican] Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), attended the ceremony.

Noko paid homage to the German theologian, murdered in the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939, saying his witness was a source of inspiration for today's church. "We give thanks to God for women and men like Rev. Schneider, particularly in times when our world is preoccupied with the implantation of war and exportation of death. The world needs witnesses like Schneider," said the general secretary.

Kasper and Noko both emphasized, in words spoken during the service, that past witnesses to the faith could, by their example, help today's Christians in their efforts toward restoring church unity. "Witnesses to the faith are the seeds of unity," said the PCPCU president. He stressed that remembering individuals like Schneider is very significant for the ecumenical movement.

The celebration included the Schneider family presentation to the church, of an original letter written by Pastor Schneider during his imprisonment in the camp. It will be preserved at San Bartolomeo along with other testimonies from "martyrs of the 20th century," to whom the church is dedicated. As early as 1933, Paul Schneider, who worked as a pastor in the Confessing Church in Dickenschied in Hunsrueck, Germany, had publicly expressed resistance against the then Nazi regime.

By Albert H. Lee
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