"Someone who lets people drown in the Mediterranean also drowns God — every day, thousands of times," Woelki, the Catholic archbishop of Cologne, said on Thursday during a Mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi.
Woelki used the boat as an altar during the Mass, which took place in front of Germany's famous Cologne Cathedral. According to the Washington Post, the boat was "recovered by the Maltese military during a search-and-rescue operation."
Thousands of migrants from countries like Syria and Eritrea have used boats similar to this one to make the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean sea. Smugglers cram hundreds of people into these tiny spaces, which can cause boats to capsize or sink. The International Organization for Migration estimates that more than 1,400 people have died attempting to enter Europe by sea in 2016 alone.
In fact, on the same day that Woelki organized his Corpus Christi mass, Reuters reported that a boat carrying migrants had capsized in the Mediterranean. While about 100 passengers were rescued, Italian officials said that an unknown number of people were feared dead.
Many of the refugees have been heading for Germany. In 2015, the country reportedly received a higher number of new asylum applications than any other country in Europe. In response, far-right groups with negative views of the influx of migrants have been gaining traction in Germany's political arena.
Cologne's Catholic Church has repeatedly called out anti-migrant sentiment in the country. Last year, Woelki helped convince hundreds of churches in his diocese to ring their bells a collective total of 23,000 times, to remember the many migrants who have drowned while crossing the Mediterranean since the year 2000. Earlier in 2015, the cathedral turned off its lights in protest of marches organized by Pegida, a German political movement that is both anti-Muslim and anti-immigration.
During a speech on Thursday, Woelki reiterated the idea that it is a Christian's duty to help those who are suffering.
"To see those in need and help them is the task the Lord has given to us as Christians," Woelki said during the Mass. "Their cry for justice, for dignity and peace are also God's cry."
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