Participants at the March for Life in Cologne, Germany, Sept. 16, 2023. / Credit: Martin Grünewald/CNA Deutsch)

CNA Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

For the first time in the history of the German March for Life, pro-life advocates in Germany simultaneously took to the streets of both Cologne and Berlin this past Saturday.

The dual marches, organized by the German pro-life group Bundesverband Lebensrecht, drew thousands and were met with both enthusiasm and confrontation as counterdemonstrators attempted to disrupt the events in one city.

In Cologne, the march on Sept. 16 drew more than 2,800 participants but faced significant disruptions from feminist and Antifa groups, CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported.

In neighboring Switzerland, approximately 1,000 pro-life activists also took part in the March for Life in Zurich on Saturday. Swiss police were on site with a large contingent to protect the peaceful event against left-wing counterdemonstrators, Tagesanzeiger reported.

In Cologne, counterdemonstrators temporarily halted the march, leading to a two-hour standstill. Eventually, the organizers withdrew, escorted by police to the final rally point. The situation escalated when counterprotesters began dismantling pro-life event stands, with one incident resulting in an advocate being assaulted.

Police in Cologne struggle to protect pro-life protesters from counter-demonstrators at the March for Life in Germany on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Martin Grünewald/CNA Deutsch

CNA Deutsch, reporting on the incident, also contacted authorities to provide further information and details after the alleged assault was published on social media.

Meanwhile, the Berlin march proceeded with fewer interruptions, attracting nearly 4,000 participants. Both events were linked via a live feed, amplifying their collective impact.

Catholic television station EWTN Germany provided streaming coverage of the dual marches, which were attended and supported by prominent German bishops.

Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg was among those present in Berlin, signaling the Church’s commitment to the cause. 

Thousands gather for the March for Life at the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Anna Diouf/CNA Deutsch

Earlier in the week, Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, expressed his gratitude to the organizers and participants for their “persistent commitment” to protecting life. Archbishop Stephan Burger of Freiburg echoed these sentiments, stating: “The gift of life is the highest good; we are convinced of that as Christians.” 

Paul Cullen, chairman of the Doctors for Life association and a board member of Bundesverband Lebensrecht, criticized the counterdemonstrators for their “intolerance and narrow-mindedness towards the weakest.” He emphasized the need to “resist and defend medical freedom of conscience.”

Susanne Wenzel, the national chair of Christian Democrats for Life, warned of deteriorating legal conditions and urged attendees to engage with politicians. Sandra Sinder of Aktion Lebensrecht für Alle spoke about the emotional and financial insecurities that often lead women to consider abortion.

Nuns attend the March for Life in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Anna Diouf/CNA Deutsch

The events also featured international pro-life activists from the Netherlands and Canada. Alex Schadenberg, founder and director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, highlighted that people usually opt for assisted suicide or euthanasia due to social isolation, poverty, and hopelessness rather than physical pain.

Despite the disruptions by radicals in Cologne, the twin marches marked a significant moment for the pro-life movement in Germany, demonstrating resilience and unity in the face of opposition. 

As the German Doctors for Life chairman Cullen said: “In Cologne, we want to send a signal for the fundamental human right to life, which precedes all other human rights and is therefore the most important of all.”

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