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Voices Online Edition
Vol. XXIII, No. 1
Pope Benedict XVI
On the Beatification of Cardinal Clemens August von Galen
October 9, 2005
Cardinal Clemens-August Graf von Galen oil portrait by Wilhelm Lautenbach, 1935- Dauerleihgabe des Stadtmuseums Münster.
On October 9, 2005, at the midday Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI presented the newly beatified Cardinal Clemens-August von Galen, a German bishop who defied Nazism, as a model for believers. Following is an excerpt from the Holy Father’s Angelus message on that day (from Vatican web site):
The beatification of Clemens-August von Galen, Bishop of Münster, a cardinal and fearless opponent of the Nazi regime, took place this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Ordained a priest in 1904, he exercised his ministry for a long time in a Berlin parish, and in 1933 he became Bishop of Münster. In God’s Name he denounced the neo-pagan ideology of National Socialism, defending the freedom of the Church and human rights that were being seriously violated, and protecting the Jews and the weakest persons whom the regime considered as rubbish to be eliminated.
The three famous homilies that this intrepid pastor gave in 1941 are remarkable. Pope Pius XII [made] him cardinal in February 1946 and he died barely a month later, surrounded by the veneration of the faithful who recognized him as a model of Christian courage.
For this very reason, the message of Blessed von Galen is ever timely: faith cannot be reduced to a private sentiment or indeed, be hidden when it is inconvenient; it also implies consistency and a witness even in the public arena for the sake of human beings, justice and truth.
I express my warm congratulations to the diocesan community of Münster and to the Church in Germany as I invoke through the intercession of the new Blessed abundant graces from the Lord upon everyone.
Cardinal von Galen’s three famous sermons are accessible online: http://www.churchinhistory.org/pages/booklets/vongalen(n).htm
Related Information from the Vatican Website:
Blessed Clemens August von Galen
Bishop of Münster (1933-1946 Cardinal)
Clemens August von Galen was born on 16 March 1878 in Dinklage Castle, Oldenburg, Germany, the 11th of 13 children born to Count Ferdinand Heribert and Elisabeth von Spee.
His father belonged to the noble family of Westphalia, who since 1660 governed the village of Dinklage. For over two centuries his ancestors carried out the inherited office of camerlengo of the Diocese of Münster.
Clemens August grew up in Dinklage Castle and in other family seats. Due to the struggle between Church and State, he and his brothers were sent to a school run by the Jesuits in Feldkirch, Austria.
He remained there until 1894, when he transferred to the Antonianum in Vechta. After graduation, he studied philosophy and theology in Frebur, Innsbruck and Münster, and was ordained a priest on 28 May 1904 for the Diocese of Münster by Bishop Hermann Dingelstadt.
Parish priest, concern for poor
His first two years as a priest were spent as vicar of the diocesan cathedral where he became chaplain to his uncle, Bishop Maximilian Gerion von Galen.
From 1906 to 1929, Fr von Galen carried out much of his pastoral activity outside Münster: in 1906 he was made chaplain of the parish of St Matthias in Berlin-Schönberg; from 1911 to 1919 he was curate of a new parish in Berlin before becoming parish priest of the Basilica of St Matthias in Berlin-Schönberg, where he served for 10 years; here, he was particularly remembered for his special concern for the poor and outcasts.
In 1929, Fr von Galen was called back to Münster when Bishop Johannes Poggenpohl asked him to serve as parish priest of the Church of St Lambert.
"Nec laudibus, nec timore'
In January 1933, Bishop Poggenpohl died, leaving the See vacant. After two candidates refused, on 5 September 1933 Fr Clemens was appointed Bishop of Münster by Pope Pius XI.
On 28 October 1933 he was consecrated by Cardinal Joseph Schulte, Archbishop of Cologne; Bishop von Galen was the first diocesan Bishop to be consecrated under Hitler's regime.
As his motto, he chose the formula of the rite of episcopal consecration: "Nec laudibus, nec timore" (Neither praise nor threats will distance me from God).
Throughout the 20 years that Bishop von Galen was curate and parish priest in Berlin, he wrote on various political and social issues; in a pastoral letter dated 26 March 1934, he wrote very clearly and critically on the "neopaganism of the national socialist ideology".
Due to his outspoken criticism, he was called to Rome by Pope Pius XI in 1937 together with the Bishop of Berlin, to confer with them on the situation in Germany and speak of the eventual publication of an Encyclical.
On 14 March 1937 the Encyclical "Mit brennender Sorge" (To the Bishops of Germany: The place of the Catholic Church in the German Reich) was published. It was widely circulated by Bishop von Galen, notwithstanding Nazi opposition.
"Lion of Munster'
In the summer of 1941, in answer to unwarranted attacks by the National Socialists, Bishop von Galen delivered three admonitory sermons between July and August. He spoke in his old parish Church of St Lambert and in Liebfrauen-Ueberlassen Church, since the diocesan cathedral had been bombed.
In his famous speeches, Bishop von Galen spoke out against the State confiscation of Church property and the programmatic euthanasia carried out by the regime.
The clarity and incisiveness of his words and the unshakable fidelity of Catholics in the Diocese of Münster embarrassed the Nazi regime, and on 10 October 1943 the Bishop's residence was bombed. Bishop von Galen was forced to take refuge in nearby Borromeo College.
From 12 September 1944 on, he could no longer remain in the city of Münster, destroyed by the war; he left for the zone of Sendenhorst.
In 1945, Vatican Radio announced that Pope Pius XII was to hold a Consistory and that the Bishop of Münster was also to be present.
Creation of a Cardinal
After a long and difficult journey, due to the war and other impediments, Bishop von Galen finally arrived in the "Eternal City". On 21 February 1946 the Public Consistory was held in St Peter's Basilica and Bishop von Galen was created a Cardinal.
On 16 March 1946 the 68-year-old Cardinal returned to Münster. He was cordially welcomed back by the city Authorities and awarded honorary citizenship by the burgomaster.
On the site of what remained of the cathedral, Cardinal von Galen gave his first (and what would be his last) discourse to the more than 50,000 people who had gathered, thanking them for their fidelity to the then-Bishop of Münster during the National Socialist regime. He explained that as a Bishop, it was his duty to speak clearly and plainly about what was happening.
No one knew that the Cardinal was gravely ill, and when he returned to Münster on 19 March 1946 he had to undergo an operation.
Cardinal von Galen died just three days later, on 22 March. He was buried on 28 March in the Ludgerus Chapel, which has become a place of pilgrimage to this defender of the faith in the face of political oppression.
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