Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Remembering Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen after 65 years

Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, remembering you after 65 years ago today on this day, happy feast day also, may you rest in peace!

Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen (March 16, 1878 – March 22, 1946) was a German count, Bishop of Münster, and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He received his education in Austria from the Jesuits at the Stella Matutina in the border town of Feldkirch ,at the austrian border with Switzerland and Liechtenstein. After his ordination he worked in Berlin at Saint Matthias, where he became close friends with Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli, later to be Pope Pius XII. An outspoken critic of the Nazi regime, he issued forceful, public denunciations of the Third Reich's euthanasia programs and persecution of the Catholic Church, making him one of the most visible and unrelenting internal voices of dissent against the Nazis.

Bishop of Münster:
Von Galen was elected bishop of Münster in the critical year for Germany of 1933. Documents in the Vatican Archives, which opened related information in 2003, indicate that von Galen was elected only after other candidates had turned down the offer, and in spite of a protest from Nuncio Orsenigo to Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who expressed his opinion that von Galen was bossy and paternalistic in his public utterances.

Once elected, von Galen campaigned against the totalitarian approach of the National Socialist Party in national education, appealing to parents to insist on Catholic teaching in schools. He successfully used the recently agreed-upon Reichskonkordat to force the National Socialists to permit continued Catholic instruction in Catholic schools. It was one of the first instances where the Reichskonkordat was used by the Church as a legal instrument against Germany, which was one of the intentions of Pope Pius XI.

Shortly thereafter, von Galen began to attack the racial ideologies of the new regime, partly poking fun at it, partly critiquing its ideological constructs as published by Alfred Rosenberg. He declared it as unacceptable to refuse the Old Testament because of its Jewish authorship, and to limit morality and virtue to the perceived usefulness of a particular race.

Protests against euthanasia, Gestapo terror, forced sterilizations and concentration camps. In 1941 von Galen gave a string of sermons protesting Nazi policies on euthanasia, Gestapo terror, forced sterilizations and concentration camps.His attacks on the Nazis were so severe that Nazi official Walter Tiessler proposed in a letter to Martin Bormann that the Bishop be executed

On July 13, 1941, von Galen publicly attacked the regime for its Gestapo's tactics of terror, including disappearances without trials, the closing of Catholic institutions without any stated justifications, and the resultant fear imposed on all Germans throughout the nation. The powerful Gestapo, he argued, reduced everybody, even the most decent and loyal citizens, to being afraid of ending up in a basement prison or a concentration camp.

As the country was at war, von Galen rejected the notion that his speech undermined German solidarity or unity. Using the lines of his friend Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, as written in Opus Justitiae Pax and Justitia fundamentum Regnorum, von Galen noted that "Peace is the work of Justice and Justice, the basis for dominion," then attacked the Third Reich for undermining justice, the belief in justice and for reducing the German people to a state of permanent fear, even cowardice. He concluded: As a German, as a decent citizen I demand Justice.

In a second sermon on July 20, 1941, von Galen informed the faithful that all written protests against Nazi hostilities had proven to be useless. The confiscation of religious institutions continued unabated. Members of religious orders were still deported or jailed. He asked his listeners to be patient and to endure, and that the German people were being destroyed not by the Allied bombing from the outside, but from negative forces within.

On August 3, 1941, von Galen informed his listeners in a third sermon about the continued desecration of Catholic churches, closing of convents and monasteries, and the deportation and euthanasia of mentally ill people (who were sent to destinations, usually concentration camps), while a notice was sent to family members stating that the person in question had died. This is murder, he exclaimed, unlawful by divine and German law, a rejection of the laws of God. He informed them that he had forwarded his evidence to the State Attorney. "These are people, our brothers and sisters; maybe their life is unproductive, but productivity is not a justification for killing."

If that were indeed a justification for execution, he reasoned, everybody would have to be afraid to even go to a doctor for fear of what might be discovered. The social fabric would be affected. Von Galen then remarked that a regime which can do away with the Fifth Commandment (thou shalt not kill) can destroy the other commandments as well.

The sermons were reproduced and sent all over Germany to families, and to German soldiers on the Western and Eastern Fronts. Karol Wojtyla is said to have read a copy in Krakow (it is unclear whether he read a copy while already a member of the Polish Resistance, or whether the sermon itself influenced his decision to join). The resulting local protests in Germany led to an immediate end of the euthanasia program Aktion T4.

The local Nazi Gauleiter was furious and asked for the immediate arrest of von Galen. However, Joseph Goebbels, Bormann and others preferred to wait until the end of World War II, to avoid undermining German morale in the heavily Catholic area. Of von Galen's remarks, perhaps the most effective was his question asking whether permanently injured German soldiers would fall under the program as well. A year later, the euthanasia program was still active, but the regime was conducting it in greater secrecy.

According to scholars, "[t]his powerful, populist sermon was immediately reproduced and distributed throughout Germany — indeed, it was dropped among German troops by British Royal Air Force flyers. Galen's sermon probably had a greater impact than any other one statement in consolidating anti-‘euthanasia' sentiment."

German patriot:
Von Galen openly supported the Protestant Paul von Hindenburg against the Catholic candidate Wilhelm Marx in the presidential elections of 1925.

He was known to be a German patriot and a fierce anti-Communist who favoured the battle on the Eastern Front against Stalin's regime in the Soviet Union. His views on communism were largely formed as a consequence of the Stalinization and relentless persecution of Christians within the Soviet Union since 1918, during which virtually all Catholic bishops were either killed or forced underground. He welcomed the 1941 German war against the USSR as a positive development.

A sermon the Bishop gave in 1941 served as the inspiration for the anti-Nazi group The White Rose, and the sermon itself was the group's first pamphlet.

Major Hans Oster, a devout Lutheran and leading member of the German Resistance, once said of Bishop von Galen,

"He's a man of courage and conviction. And what resolution in his sermons! There should be a handful of such people in all our churches, and at least two handfuls in the Wehrmacht. If there were, Germany would look quite different!"

The published sermons of Von Galen show that he condemned the racist deportations of the Nazis. Von Galen, further, suffered virtual house arrest from 1941 until the end of the war.

After the war, his indignation turned on the British occupiers, who, in his view, complicated with hostile acts (including starvation rations for the common people) an already difficult life in post-war Germany. The British responded by taking away his automobile and disabling him from visiting parishes and carrying out planned confirmations. On April 13th, Galen went to American authorities to protest Russian soldiers' raping of German women, and against American and British forces' plundering German homes, factories, and offices, especially at night.

On July 1, 1945, he denounced "the ransacking of our homes[, already] destroyed by bombs", "the pillaging and destruction of our houses and farms in the countryside by armed bands of robbers", the "murder of defenceless men", "the rape of German women and girls by bestial lechers" (it was estimated that 2 million German women were raped, with a ten percent death rate mainly from suicide; women of other nationalities were raped, too), and the indifference of the occupying authorities to the risk of famine in Germany: all these horrors finding justification on the basis of "the false view that all Germans are criminals and deserve the most severe punishment, including death and extermination!".

In a joint interview with British officials, Von Galen told the international press that, "just as I fought against Nazi injustices, I will fight any injustice, no matter where it comes from". He repeated these claims in a sermon on July 1, 1945, which, as in the Nazi years, was secretly copied and distributed throughout occupied Germany. The British authorities felt attacked by Von Galen's sermon and ordered him to renounce it immediately; he refused.

His rising popularity may have contributed to their decision to afterwards allow him free speech without any censorship. In an interview with Swiss media, Von Galen demanded just punishment for real Nazi criminals but humane treatment for the millions of German prisoners of war who did not commit any crimes but were prohibited by the British from any contact with their relatives.

He criticized British dismissal of Germans from public service without investigations and trial, noting that the Nazis had done the same in 1933, but that the Nazi victims at least had continued to receive pensions.[25] He forcefully condemned the expulsion of German civilians from former German provinces and territories in the east annexed by communist Poland and the Soviet Union. A paper from the Foreign Office called him "the most outstanding personality among the clergy in the British zone . . . . Statuesque in appearance and uncompromising in discussion, this oak-bottomed old aristocrat . . . is a German nationalist through and through."

SS-General Kurt Meyer, accused of complicity in the shooting of 18 Canadian prisoners of war, was sentenced to death.

Galen intervened at the request of the family. On second review, a Canadian general, finding only "a mass of circumstantial evidence", commuted his death sentence. Meyer served nine years in British and Canadian POW prisons. The British forces tried to get support by inviting Dr. Bell, the Anglican Bishop of Chichester, to meet Von Galen for a three way-meeting in October 1945. Bell adjudged Von Galen as possessing enormous moral power, a passion for justice, and well-educated behaviour, and as being very concerned for his people and a defender of ecumenical coöperation.

College of Cardinals:
Unexpectedly, at Christmas 1945 it became known that Pope Pius XII would appoint three new German cardinals, one of them Bishop von Galen, who, despite numerous British obstacles and denial of air travel, arrived in Rome February 5, 1946. Generous American cardinals financed his Roman stay, as German money was not in demand. He had become famous and popular, so after the pope had placed the red hat on his head with the words: 'God bless you, God bless Germany,' Saint Peter's basilica for minutes thundered in a "triumphant applause" for von Galen,

He interpreted it as "a sign of the love of the Pope for our poor German people. Before all the world he has, as a supranational and impartial observer, recognized the German people as equal in the society of nations". While in Rome, he visited the German POW camps in Taranto and told the German Wehrmacht soldiers that he would take care of their release, and that the Pope himself was working on the release of POWs. He took a large number of comforting personal messages to their worried families.

After receiving the red hat from Pope Pius XII, von Galen went to see Madre Pascalina, the faithful servant of the Pope. He told her how the Pope had quoted long passages from his 1941 sermons from memory and how he thanked him for his courage. Galen told the Pope, “Yes, Holy Father, but many of my very best priests died in concentration camps, because they distributed my sermons”. Pius replied, that he was always aware, that thousands of innocent persons would be sent into certain death as a result of his protests as pope.

They talked about old days in Berlin, and von Galen declared: "for nothing in the world would I want to miss these two hours, not even for the red hat."Von Galen judged Pius XII to be “an unusually holy, unusually conscientious and unusually good person,” but one who had “obviously forgotten all my bad habits, otherwise he would not have given me the red hat”.

Death and beatification:

Following his return from the cumbersome travel to Vatican City, the new cardinal was celebrated enthusiastically in his native Westphalia and in his destroyed city of Münster, which still lay completely in ruins as a result of the air raids. He died a few days after his return from Rome in the St. Franziskus Hospital of Münster due to an appendix infection diagnosed too late. His last words were: "Yes, Yes, as God wills it. May God reward you for it. May God protect the dear fatherland. Go on working for him... oh, you dear Savior!" He was buried in the family crypt of the Galen family in the destroyed Cathedral of Münster.

The cause for beatification was requested by his successor, Bishop Michael Keller of Münster and began under Pope Pius XII in 1956. It was concluded positively in November 2004 under Pope John Paul II. Clemens August Graf von Galen was beatified on October 9, 2005 outside of St. Peter's Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI, the 47th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius (1958).

Pope Benedict XVI
On the Beautification of Cardinal Clemens August von Galen
October 9, 2005

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.

just finished watching an EWTN special for the Beatification Mass of Cardinal Clemens August von Galen this evening. First, if you are unaware for the process of being declared a saint, someone in Heaven, then please read the Wikipedia article on sainthood.

Today I watched the Beatification Mass celebrated by Cardinal Saraiva Martins celebrated at Saint Peter's Basilica for the Beatification of Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen (1878 - 1946). And although Pope Benedict XVI did not celebrate the Mass since a beatification is more of a regional celebration than a declaration of sainthood, the Holy Father did arrive near the end to bless the crowd and speak. Although not spoken by Our Holy Father, I found these words spoken on the Eucharist very refreshing and brilliant. It was said that in receiving the Eucharist one's "...Heart becomes the throne of the Son of God." Is your heart worthy? After this life we will be seeing our God with our own eyes, touching Him with our own hands, but our you worthy? If not then seek His mercy in the Sacrament of Confession, the delight of souls where every single soul, by the power of God, is washed clean from sin. Thanks be to God for His immeasurable gift - His only Son, eternally begotten of the Father!

Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen was a huge critic of the Nazi regime. He lived the Truth in the midst of the darkness of World War II.

If you have information relevant to the canonization of Blessed Clemens, please contact:

Domkapitular Martin Hülskamp
Horsteberg 18, 48143
Münster, Germany

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