Germany

[map of Germany]
Republic of central Europe.

The first appearance of Christianity in Germany is uncertain, but Saint Irenaeus in the 2nd century reports that the Germans have the same faith as Spain, Gaul, the Orient, Egypt, and Africa. In the cathedral of Trier is preserved the Holy Coat of Christ, which according to tradition was given to the Church of Trier by Saint Helena, and in the Benedictine monastery of Trier is the grave of Saint Matthias, the only grave of an Apostle in Germany. Trier was visited by the exiled Athanasius and Saint Martin of Tours, and its bishop, Saint Paulinus, was a steadfast opponent of Arianism. After the barbarian invasions evangelization of Germany was continued in the 6th century by Irish and Scottish monks, including Saint Fridolin, Saint Columbanus, Saint Gall, Saint Kilian, and Saint Willibrord, but the great Apostle of Germany and organizer of the German Church was the English Benedictine, Saint Boniface, who worked mainly in central Germany and Bavaria, a field also visited by Rupert of Worms (7th century), Emmeram (died 715), and Corbinian (died 730). Boniface dealt a death blow to paganism, symbolized in cutting down the sacred oak of Geismar, founded the monastery of Fulda, and opened the first convents for women in Germany. Once Christianity had gained a foothold, the Augustinian ideal of union of Church and State became widespread, and through the grants of princes the Church received an economic power, resulting in the development of an ecciesiastical as well as a secular aristocracy. Charles Martel, Otto I, and Saint Henry II established new dioceses, built cathedrals in conquered territory, and endowed the clergy, in recognition of which services the Church granted to the emperors the right to nominate candidates for benefices, which later resulted in the dispute over investiture. Henry IV was at length obliged to go to Canossa to make peace with the pope whose opposition he dared not risk, and his attempt at schism was concluded by the Concordat of Worms in 1122, recognizing investiture as the right of the Church. This pagan imperial policy was again attempted by Frederick Barbarossa who was vanquished by Pope Alexander III. The conflict was continued by Frederick II and Louis of Bavaria. During these centuries of turmoil there appeared also great saints, including the two Gertrudes and the two Mechtildes, all of the Cistercian monastery of Helfta, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, and Saint Bruno and Saint Norbert, who together founded the Grand Chartreuse in France. Among the Dominicans were Blessed Jordan of Saxony, Albert the Great, and later Henry Suso.

Dispute over the nature of indulgences occasioned the revolt of Martin Luther, which was established by the burning of the papal Bull at Wittenberg, 10 December 1520. Political difficulties with France and the papacy prevented Charles V from adequately combating Lutheranism, and the general state of deterioration among the clergy facilitated a victory for the heretics and subsequent moral, intellectual, and social disorder, in spite of numerous cases of heroic resistance. The Catholic cause was upheld by several princes of the Church, as Stanislaus Hosius and Giovanni Commendone, Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, the Carthusians of Cologne, and the first German Jesuits, notably Peter Faber and Peter Canisius; after the Council of Trent Albert V and William V of Bavaria were the acknowledged leaders of Catholicism. In the 17th century the Thirty Years War added to Protestant advantages, and the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) accorded to each prince the right of determining the religion of his subjects. Though in the 18th century many rulers returned to Catholicism, they were powerless to repair the damage wrought by their ancestors. In 1786 the Electors of Cologne, Trier, and Mainz with the Archbishop of Salzburg separated German affairs from papal authority, and the Treaty of Luneville in 1801 completed the work of secularization, while an anti-clerical policy was popularized by authors and philosophers. The Kulturkampf (1871 to 1877), which attempted confiscation of Church property and the establishment of a national Church transmitting to the State all the natural rights of the Church, was combated by clergy and faithful. As a result of the World War there has been a tendency to return to the Catholic Church, for the fall of the empire left Protestantism with no official head; many religious orders and congregations evicted under the imperial regime are returning, some to their original property. In 1919 the republic was established, and according to the new constitution there is no State Church, but entire freedom of conscience and equality among all religious denominations, each of which manages its own affairs and makes appointments to office without interference from the State. Germany is represented at the Holy See by an ambassador, and a nuncio resides in Berlin.

Ecclesiastically, the country is governed by the archdioceses of

and the dioceses of

and the

  • Germany, Faithful of Eastern Rite (Ukrainian) (Apostolic Exarchate)
  • Germany Military Ordinariate

See also