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German Bishops at Fulda – Pastoral Letter by the Conference of Catholic Bishops (August 23, 1945)

During the Third Reich, anti-church propaganda, the closing of Catholic schools, and the dissolution of Catholic youth organizations put the Catholic Church under great pressure. After the war, the first pastoral letter of the Conference of Catholic Bishops began by emphasizing the Catholic Church’s oppositional role under the Nazi regime. But it also acknowledged that many Catholics knew about the crimes of the regime, tolerated them, or even actively participated in them. The bishops called for a return to basic Christian values in Germany, with help coming from the reopening of Catholic Schools.

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The following is a translation from the German of the joint Pastoral issued by the Hierarchy of Germany after their meeting at Fulda on August 23, 1945. N.C.W.C. News Service.

For two years the raging war had made it impossible for us to convene for joint deliberations. At this first meeting after the end of the war we painfully miss the permanent chairman of our conference, Adolf Cardinal Bertram, Archbishop of Breslau, who died in the Lord on July 6 of this year at Castle Johannesberg. He had presided over our conferences for 25 years; he had administered the Archdiocese of Breslau for 31 years and had been a Bishop for almost 40 years. When the time comes for publication of the memoranda concerning all pending questions, submitted by him during the last 12 years alone to government offices, the world will marvel at the farsightedness and sagacity with which he kept watch and fought for the rights of God and His Church and for the benefit of all suffering and oppressed. We tender a tribute of our gratitude and remember him in our prayers.

Despite all changes in the events of our times we convene at the old holy spot, at the tomb of St. Boniface, the apostle of the Germans. We convene in the same Faith which he had preached to our ancestors, in the same loyalty to the Roman Pope with whom he had linked the German Church insolubly. In this Faith and in this allegiance we have the firm conviction to stand on a rock against which the waves may smash but which they can never undermine, or uproot.

Let our first word be an expression of deepest gratitude to our clergy and to our flock for the unshakable loyalty which they have maintained for the Church through difficult times.

We know that for many of you it had not been without danger to listen again and again to our episcopal pronouncements, which spoke out against the errors and crimes of our times. With deep interest and inner sympathy, millions and millions have followed our remarks, when we upheld the rights of the person, when we rejected the interference of the State with Church life, when we spoke of the unheard-of oppression by State and party in all spheres of spiritual and religious life, when we raised our voice against racial arrogance and hatred of other nations. We know well that informers were ready everywhere to hinder you in your progress and in your career once it had been discovered that you had listened to such sermons.

From the bottom of our heart we thank you, Christian parents, that you courageously stood up for the Catholic schools, despite all intimidations and threats, even though finally the fight for your parental rights was not successful. We remember with a holy pride how in so many districts the Cross was brought back to its old place after it had been removed from the class rooms by wicked hands. You all had no earthly power, only the power of your faith and your courage.

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