GERMANWINGS: Churches minister to families of air disaster victims

by Will Hall, |
School principal Ulrich Wessel (L) of Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium High School gives an interview after a news conference in Haltern am See, Germany, March, 25, 2015. Students and teachers at the small-town school broke out in tears when they realized 16 classmates and two teachers were aboard the ill-fated Germanwings airplane that crashed in France on Tuesday en route from Barcelona, Spain, to Duesseldorf, Germany. The Airbus 320 aircraft operated by Lufthansa's budget airline crashed in a remote snowy area of the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 passengers and crew members. | REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

HALTERN, Germany (Christian Examiner) -- Two local churches in Haltern, Germany, are trying to help this small town deal with the grief of the deaths of 16 students and two teachers who were aboard Germanwings Flight 9525 which crashed in the French Alps yesterday.

The teens were among 144 passengers and six crew members who perished.

The group from the Joseph-Konig-Gymnasium, a high school, was returning from a week-long Spanish exchange program at the Institut Giola in Llinars del Vallés near Barcelona.

The Associated Press reported that at least two local congregations have opened their facilities to minister to townspeople, even keeping their doors open at night for those who might need to worship alone.

Hundreds of people visited St. Sixtus, a Catholic congregation, immediately after the news broke yesterday to light candles and write messages of condolence to the families of those who died.

A 16-year-old student, Christopher Schweigmann, told the news wire service that "everyone was in tears in the church".

"It's impossible to believe that they all won't be there anymore in the coming days," he said. He lost two good friends in the crash.

AP did not name the second congregation, but did report that students at the exchange school in Spain attended a special mass in their town.