"The world looks to the priest, because it looks to Jesus! No one can see Christ; but everyone sees the priest, and through him they wish to catch a glimpse of the Lord! Immense is the grandeur of the Lord! Immense is the grandeur and dignity of the priest!"
(Bl. John Paul II, Rome, Italy, October 13, 1979)
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Bl. Clemens von Galen - Priest, Bishop and Cardinal of heroic Virtue in a Time of Persecution
Clemens August von Galen was born on 16 March 1878 in DinklageCastle, 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
Clemens August grew up in DinklageCastle 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
"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
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
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
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
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 "EternalCity". On 21 February 1946 the Public
Consistory was held in St Peter's Basilica and Bishop von Galen was created a
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
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.
He was beatified on October 9th 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI.