Corpus Christi in a German Wine Village

THE FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI (LATIN FOR BODY OF CHRIST), ALSO KNOWN AS CORPUS DOMINI, celebrates Catholic tradition and belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ and His Real Presence in the Eucharist. Here. the village band arrives for Mass under the festooned Riesling grape vines. BY TRADITION, CATHOLICS IN GERMANY’S FAMOUS RHINE … Read more

What the German Pastor Said About Christ

And the Roots of Europe

Homily given on the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time: 1. Book of Sirach 15.15–20; 2. First Letter to the Corinthians 2.6–10; The Gospel of Mathew 5.17–37

by Father Peter Lauer

Last week I was witness to a special event. A group of teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18 were being clearly informed by an American woman what the roots of Europe are.

Christianity, she says, has not only shaped humans but also landscapes and has influenced the development of cities and the very culture itself – indeed the Church was the culture.

Our home, the Rheingau, our cultural background, Germany and Europe cannot be understood, if we do not regard Christianity as being the key explanation. The structure of our cities are centered around the cathedral just as in Paris and Reims, Mainz and Cologne, the churches built by the cities of Ulm and Freiburg, the village churches such as the ones here in Hallgarten, Hattenheim and Erbach. Mittelheim for its part has a basilica which monks and nuns built on top of another building 800 years ago.

And this is how Christianity is perceived by many: as something historical that was once great, whose existence was justified during its time. Large monuments are visited by tourists today who marvel at them, professional tour guides explain in detail the secrets of medieval architecture and the mysterious harmony of the insides of churches are found to be — the perfect places to hold musical concerts!

And this is how Christianity is perceived by many: as something historical that was once great, whose existence was justified during its time.

But places of prayer? Of course, there are still many of them today. The peaceful place for reflection in front of the tabernacle, the eternal light of the Church, as they used to say. Some burning candles that are lit up during the course of the day bear witness to this. During Christmas we can experience again how the beauty of the Nativity scene and the love emanating from the mother with her child, draw crowds of people, both young and old alike.

However, when we do have a look at those people who do come to church on a normal Sunday, the suspicion seems to be correct that religion is something really for children and senior citizens and now even the children are no longer there. What is going on? It does not seem that we have been able to pass on to new generations what previous generations once valued. Very little of the Middle Ages, no modern era and mostly ancient history.

The devaluation of tradition led to a new relationship with Christ.  It is also high time that we talk about the dark side of tradition. Since the age of the Enlightenment, Christianity has been viewed by many as being, on the one hand, a kind of disciplinary measure and, on the other hand, as a cultural association. Our Protestant brothers and sisters have experienced this much more than us Catholics; however, this has affected both of our churches.

Since the age of the Enlightenment, Christianity has been viewed by many as being, on the one hand, a kind of disciplinary measure and, on the other hand, as a cultural association. Our Protestant brothers and sisters have experienced this much more than us Catholics; however, this has affected both of our churches.

I think you can see it well in the development of historical-critical method of interpreting the Bible.  In 19th century Berlin, the theologian Schleiermacher came up with a way of reading the Bible which completely broke with tradition. Now this certainly had its merits, because it led to deep insights into the origins of the Bible and into the world in which the books of the Bible came to be written.

But it was also problematic because the Christ who was speaking in Scripture was no longer a figure of authority. That is to say, all of His words were subjected to the verdict of theologians. In other words, did the historical Jesus actually say that or was it later attributed to Him by the early Church? Pope Benedict put it like this: What came out of all this was often the spirit of these very theologians. Whatever fit into a culturally acceptable idea of Jesus was correct. And anything that was bothersome ended up being degraded and eliminated.

And so Christianity stopped being a challenge and a thorn in the flesh. Christ thus became a joyful hippie full of humanistic ideals.

But why did this guy named Jesus have to crucified? Well, that was not so clear.

It was also problematic because the Christ, who was speaking in Scripture, was no longer a figure of authority. That is to say, all of his words were subjected to the verdict of theologians. And so Christianity stopped being a challenge and a thorn in the flesh. Christ thus became a joyful hippie full of humanistic ideals.

The relationship with Christ led to tensions with the institution.

Catholics and Protestants handled the situation differently. The Protestants opened themselves up to a great extent, to the point where they were even using the Nazi salute at their church synods during the Nazi era.

The Catholics built a wall around an idyllic garden and refused to acknowledge the reality outside of it. In this context, there have been people such as Pope John Paul II, Mother Theresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth and Roger Schultz who gave witness to a Christ who was not to everyone’s liking, a certain Christ who was especially uncomfortable to those in power. 

They called for a new relationship with Christ, the Savior of mankind. The traditions had lead to ossification. Bonhoeffer, for instance, had the following realization: “Christianity harbors within itself an important element that is hostile to the Church.”

Catholics and Protestants handled the situation differently. The Protestants opened themselves up to a great extent, to the point where they were even using the Nazi salute at their church synods during the Nazi era.

And, in fact, Christ is not an intellectual from the ancient world but rather the Son of God whose Gospel brought Him to the Cross.  Pope Benedict called for “detachment from the world” amidst the fake outrage of the establishment. This “detachment from the world” is what Pope Francis is living out. Many people are still shouting “Hosanna.”

The Church is discovering its task again of representing Christ in the present age. Today we face Christ, who rejects nothing that is good and holy within the tradition of His people. But, at the same time, this is not enough for Him. Because self-righteousness is an abomination to Him. He challenges us to provide access to our traditions through His very own vitality. These traditions must not, however, become an idol that lets us think that it can be appeased.

In awe, draw near to the God of life. With fear and trembling, contemplate His greatness. With humility and gratitude receive His grace, for it is sealed by the blood of Christ.

My experience from last Thursday can be summarized in the following way: You have heard that Christianity was brought to your fathers and ancestors. But you have forgotten what lies at the core of it all: Christ. Convert to Him and you will live, convert to Him and the Church will earn the name she bears: “the One belonging to the Lord.”

Convert to Him and the Church will live.


My experience from last Thursday can be summarized in the following way: You have heard that Christianity was brought to your fathers and ancestors. But you have forgotten what lies at the core of it all: Christ.

How the Latin Mass Returned to Roman Trier

by Stefan Schilling

A German medical doctor relates how he fell in love with the traditional liturgy – and how he became embroiled in a decade-long struggle to win permission for the Mass to be celebrated in the ancient city of Trier, founded by the Roman Emperor Augustus and Catholic since the time of Constantine.

As I was born in 1963 — during the convocation of the Second Vatican Council — I never actually experienced the traditional liturgy during my childhood. I grew up in a good Catholic family in a modern suburban community outside Mainz (a small city in central western Germany). In my parents’ house and in our local parish, we followed the new, post-conciliar liturgy of Paul VI.

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2000 YEAR OLD ROMAN RUINS at Trier, Germany — Catholic from the time of the Roman Empire.

During the 1960s, our suburb was a newly built post-war settlement, and we had  no church building for many years.  Instead, we used a local rectory for Mass and for Carnival events.  There was no sacred space for our village.  In the rectory, we had only chairs, no benches – and of course no way to kneel. We were told that there was no money available for building churches in the Mainz diocese.

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ANCIENT CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL AT TRIER built on the foundations of the palace of St Helena, mother of Constantine.

In the late 1970s, I attended our diocesan high school in Mainz, and I can’t remember anyone ever expressing any critical thoughts regarding the huge liturgical upheaval that followed in the wake of the Vatican Council. After school, I was active in the Catholic Boy Scouts, where we were encouraged to ‘use our creativity,’ inventing our own liturgies in loose-leaf notebooks. No one ever questioned the “new” liturgy, neither my family nor anyone in my social environment.  There was simply no other liturgical variant.

I was active in the Catholic Boy Scouts, where we were encouraged to ‘use our creativity,’ inventing our own liturgies in loose-leaf notebooks. No one ever questioned the “new” liturgy, neither my family nor anyone in my social environment.

By the time I was slightly older, however, I began increasingly to question this liturgy I had grown up with.  It seemed to me that the new rite was less about worship, and more about featuring the priest at center stage, along with the lay people who were ‘selected’ to participate in the liturgy. 

In fact, it seemed to me that in the new rite the proper focus on the major events of Holy Mass had been lost long ago. We were afforded hardly a moment for our own silent prayer, or to await that inner peace so essential for worship.  In the new rite in Germany, every moment had to be filled with action.

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VIEW OF ROMAN BATHS AT TRIER, the city established by Augustus Caesar, and Catholic since Roman times.

Together with other students, then, I became increasingly interested in experiencing  the quieter, more predictable, “real” worship found in the old Mass, where people’s actions were in the background and God was brought back to His rightful place — in the center of the action, so to speak. 

Now and again we students would drive to a parish in Kiedrich, a picturesque medieval town amidst the vineyards along the Rhine. In this simple country parish, the church had maintained a special schola cantorum for many years.  Saints’ days and feasts were celebrated with due solemnity. 

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FAMOUS STEINBERG VINEYARD along the Rhine River valley, created by Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages.

We students would drive to a parish in Kiedrich, a picturesque medieval town amidst the vineyards along the Rhine. In this simple country parish, the church had maintained a special schola cantorum for many years.

At about this time I decided I would no longer receive Communion in the hand. My belief in the Real Presence was too powerful for me to countenance the numerous abuses I had observed in the practice of giving Communion in the hand. 

At the suggestion of a friend, I attended the Holy Mass in the traditional rite for the first time in a parish near Frankfurt.  I watched joyfully as the celebrant handled the Body of Christ in a reverent, convincing and consistent manner.  His careful use of the corporal,  the closed hold of his fingers on the Host from conversion to purification, on the paten and in administering Holy Eucharist in the mouth — here, it was clear that no one needed to explain the Real Presence.  From these many gestures and signs, that the Body of Christ was really and truly in the Host was abundantly clear to anyone attending this Mass.

I watched joyfully as the celebrant handled the Body of Christ in a reverent, convincing and consistent manner.  His careful use of the corporal,  the closed hold of his fingers on the Host from conversion to purification, on the paten and in administering Holy Eucharist in the mouth — here, it was clear that no one needed to explain the Real Presence.

 I remember thinking that the form followed the content of our Faith totally in these actions. Only much later did I come across the concept of lex orandi lex credendi; that is, the notion that “the law of prayer determines the law of faith“ and therefore that one’s external actions shape one’s inner attitude.

I was equally impressed by the Traditional Rite’s common orientation in prayer.  That is,  the traditional rite does not make the priest the center of the action — though to be fair there are many priests who do not seek this center stage.  Instead, his place is almost akin to that of the head of a procession in a village feast.

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MONKS DORMITORY, Kloster Eberbach in the Rhine Valley

Finally, there was plenty of silence, especially in the central part of the Mass where we are called really to pray with the celebrant.  I was also delighted to find that my private prayer was no longer seemingly an affront to others – something to be “talked to death.“  The Holy One was the focus of this Mass, not the person of the priest, nor the performances of amateur liturgists.

I was also delighted to find that my private prayer was no longer seemingly an affront to others – something to be “talked to death.“  The Holy One was the focus of this Mass, not the person of the priest, nor the performances of amateur liturgists.

Here, I felt spiritually secure and at home.  Over time, I came to love the liturgy more and more,  despite the fact that traditional Masses at that time were hard to find for me, and indeed for anyone in Germany. For me, this liturgy touches my interior life, something I can hardly put into words.  Perhaps it is the experience of what we call  “grace.“

Over the years, I often wondered why Catholics were not permitted to attend both liturgies. The de facto ban on the traditional rite irritated me, the more so because pretty much everything else in what one could term liturgical “peculiarity“ was allowed and indeed encouraged.

LATIN MASS IN COLOGNE GERMANY at the Eucharistic Congress organized by Pro Missa Tridentina, a German organization founded in1 990 to support the Latin Mass in the German-speaking world.

For example, I’m somewhat chagrined to report that the seminary of the diocese of Trier – an important Catholic community since the time of the Romans – organized what was billed as a “techno worship“ to celebrate the Millenium Year 2000.  The concluding “hymn“ of this “Mass“ was a German Idol hit for that year entitled  “No Angels,” performed in the presence of the Bishop and diocesan clergy. (You will forgive me if I use an American phrase here: “You can’t make this stuff up.“)

The seminary of the diocese of Trier – an important Catholic community since the time of the Romans – organized what was billed as a “techno worship“ to celebrate the Millenium Year 2000.

Liturgically speaking, in Germany everything seemed possible.  The single exception to this rule was any request to allow the traditional liturgy.  This was treated as if it were indecent and, indeed, reprehensible.

I learned this after I graduated from my medical studies, and established my family in Trier in 1993.  This was when I first approached the now-deceased Bishop of Trier with a request to permit an “Indultmesse” here.   A need was not seen by the bishop.

ALTARPIECE, Church of St. Martin In Oestrich in Rhine Valley.

Thank God for the good priests and even municipalities in Trier that we found that offered a respectful form of the liturgy of Paul VI “ordinary” Mass.  Our family found such a community, and there our three daughters were baptized.  For these many years, our family has lived with both forms of the Roman rite – the ordinary and the extraordinary form.  For many years we had to drive many miles to do this.

Liturgically speaking, in Germany everything seemed possible.  The single exception to this rule was  the traditional liturgy.  This was treated as if it were indecent and, indeed, reprehensible.

When the new Bishop (now Cardinal Marx) of Trier was installed in 2002, I began asking him for  permission to celebrate the Holy Mass in the traditional rite in our diocese. During our subsequent correspondence, I collected about 300 signatures to support my request.  After over two years of  painstaking correspondence with the Diocese’s Consultancy Department, permission was finally granted at the end of 2004 for a single Indultmesse to be celebrated on Sundays and holidays in Trier.  Permission was conditional, however, on the observation of many restrictions regarding place, time, inter alia, etc.

This was eleven years after my first request to the bishop of Trier.

In spite of the limitations established, I’m happy to report that the response to the Old Mass has been such that the diocese has agreed to provide a separate priest for pastoral care in the extraordinary rite in the Trier jurisdiction. Of course, we greatly rejoiced over the long-prayed-for Motu Proprio from the Holy Father regarding the traditional liturgy.  In the Diocese of Trier, we hope and expect for a future of “normality“ in the usus antiquior of the one Roman rite.

The centuries-old beloved traditional Roman rite is finally back as a special form of the Roman rite.  Recognized again after more than 35 years of de facto abolition, the Mass has regained its full citizenship in the Church. For this, I say, ‘Deo Gratias!”

The Secret Catholic Insider Guide to Germany

Today, Germany is a world-beater. Beautiful cars, sculpted landscapes, sparkling clean cities, a social welfare system that provides for all  — Germany, the pariah of the world after World War II, was in 2013 voted the most admired nation on the planet.

Such amazing success is heady stuff indeed for the three generations since Hitler who have rebuilt this war-torn land with a traumatized population and a Marshall plan. 

German Language and  Ideology

Germans and their culture are often misunderstood, perhaps due to their difficult language and idiosyncratic culture. Linguists have long noted that the German language allows for precision in a way almost impossible to imagine in English or the Romance languages. For this reason, in the 18th and 19th centuries, German was considered to be the ‘best’ scientific language. (Full disclosure: Although I am a New Yorker, I speak German fluently, having been raised with it as my first language.)

The German language is also key to understanding the Germans’ love of ideas — good, bad or indifferent. From Luther to Marx to Freud, from Heidegger to Nietzsche to Hitler, Germany’s history is full of men of ideas who have vastly influenced the world. Ideas of course often quickly lead to ideologies — the Nazis amply demonstrated  the destructive power of an ideology fervently embraced.

This leads us to the question of the German’s idiosyncratic culture. Many have asked how such a modern, forward-thinking nation as 19th century Germany could turn into the war machine of the early 20th century — and the purveyor of death and destruction of the Shoah. This is a troubling question, particularly for the generations who have come afterwards.

Modernizing the Germans

Since the last War, German social engineers have endeavored to instill anti-conformism in a culture with a several-thousand year history of strict conformity to authority. They have succeeded mainly in making Germany’s young people conform in their enthusiasm for consumerism, internet-fueled trends and exotic vacationing.

One thing that most young Germans are not doing is getting married and having children. Despite government subsidies for each child, under the burden of mass derision for the traditional ‘hausfrau‘ role, families are simply failing to form. Anecdotal evidence from a few German young families reveals strangers lecturing parents with more than two children about their ‘anti-social’ tendencies; having a family in Germany is decidedly not ‘cool.’

Today, we see these cultural forces — ideology, conformism and  materialism — at play once again in Germany’s Catholics. According to the German bishops’ own statistics, the Catholic Church is Germany is in imminent danger —  Catholics are leaving in droves and the vast majority of those who remain in the Church do not attend Mass. (For more about why people are leaving, see here.)

Mass-goers are inevitably over age seventy; they sit passively while gray-haired priests harangue them about politics. (Afterwards, when asked about the content of the homily, most will shrug merrily and admit they were not paying attention. At all.) Younger people will only darken the door of a Church for the rare family wedding, first Holy Communion or baptism.

Funerals in this aging country are so common, however, that priests in some dioceses can’t be spared for them. Catholics are often cremated and interred — or their ashes spread over forest floors — without benefit of clergy. In many parishes, a once-a-month Requiem Mass is celebrated for anyone in the parish who has died; these are sparsely attended.

Fabulously Rich & Famously Liberal

What’s going on? The Church in Germany is fabulously rich — the beneficiary of a financial system which routes 9% of the income tax paid by Catholics into the Church’s coffers. (To be clear, if Catholics do not pay this, they will not receive the Sacraments.) The German bishops live and act like CEOs, which of course they are — as the Church employs 650,000 Germans, making it the second largest employer after the German state, more than six times the size of Mercedes Benz.

The German Church is also famously liberal — with bishops and theologians regularly issuing public demands that Rome abandon its ‘out-dated’ ideas and ‘get with the program’ of modern times. To outsiders, such arrogance may be  breathtaking, but it is important to understand the context for this.

The bishops’ broadsides aimed at Rome are an attempt to pander to the sensibilities of the German elites and media. The German bishops do a tremendous amount of talking about helping those less fortunate, because that is the single role that most Germans will willingly accord the Church. On matters of morals, they are expected to tow the secular line — which they do.

Accustomed to luxurious prelates and the high politics of Church and State, ordinary German Catholics are blase about such verbal pyrotechnics. They know that for centuries ferocious power struggles between the State and Church — not to mention between Protestants and Catholics — have cut a broad swathe of destruction across Germany’s tragic history. The diaspora of Germans across the New World, Eastern Europe and Russia have all resulted from the wars and famines induced by conflict. (So, if your family came from Germany, this is probably why.)

Clerics who rebel against Rome are old news, here.

The German Post-War Catholic Avant-Garde

There is a German word that has found its way into English — ‘ersatz‘ meaning something used as a substitute for the real thing. Here, in the homeland of ideology, there is a kind of ‘ersatz’ Arian catholicism which is firmly in control of the Catholic Church’s multi-billion euro revenues.

In the 20th century, Germany has been ground zero for the ideology of Modernism. Post-World War II, an avant-garde of German theologians were pretty much responsible for pushing  ill-defined liturgical and sartorial changes through the Second Vatican Council. Josef Ratzinger was among this group, though his later about-face earned him the everlasting enmity of former friends in German church circles such as Karl Lehmann, powerful Cardinal of Mainz and ‘free-thinking’ theologian Hans Kung. (In a presumably unrelated development, Dr Kung has just announced his intention to commit suicide to the world’s press.)

Modernist innovations have been zealously applied over the past few decades, not least in art and architecture. Tourists accustomed to the beauty of English and French stained glass windows are often disappointed in Germany. Ancient church windows bomb-blasted out were dutifully replaced by stained glass of two varieties: the dull and cheap or the ugly and expensive.  As for the medieval and baroque saints, they were stripped out of German churches and placed in diocesan museums, where they can be appreciated by culturati — as opposed to Mass-goers.

Churches stripped bare of piety are de facto evidence of  iconoclasm (in German ‘bildersturm‘ or ‘storm about pictures’) which fits nicely with the ersatz “catholicism’ propounded by today’s well-paid German theologians. It’s a kind of Arianism by another name — they have pretty much decided that any intelligent person should be able to see that Jesus of Nazareth was nothing more than a particularly effective social reformer. In Germany, this is ‘normal’ Catholicism.

A Crippling Shortage of Priests

Predictably, a course of study about a nice guy in Jerusalem 2000 years ago draws few students; hence, Germany has few seminarians.This state of affairs has been the status quo for decades, and the priest shortage here is acute. Most German parishes must share;  in some formerly Catholic areas there is only one priest for every 5-6 parishes.

The shortfall is partly made up by priests ‘borrowed’ from poorer countries. Their paychecks are very much needed in their home diocese, and their lack of German language proficiency and vulnerable status insures that they will not rock the boat. (Any attempts to beg funds for their desperately poor folks back home are coldly rebuffed.)

This is not to say that Germany does not have some stellar priests. These few, faithful men work very hard indeed, in a country where wearing a Roman collar has not been ‘done’ for decades. (Those who dare risk hostile stares, if not outright aggression from Germans, in public.) They must administer the Sacraments in parishes run by clueless laypeople who want to serve coffee and cake during Mass, show Powerpoint presentations in lieu of homilies — or indeed, during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament — or stage children’s plays in the midst of the Mass. (We have personally witnessed each of these; the term ‘liturgical abuse’ is not known here.)

German laypeople are not wholly to blame, however, as the lack of basic catechesis is everywhere evident. Almost no one goes to Confession. Few genuflect before entering pews in German churches. Most Catholics have no clue about the Real Presence in the Tabernacle, which is often a strangely-decorated box set oddly to one side of an elevated platform.

Priests and layfolk alike in most parishes are loath to be quoted, too. This is because some Germans pay close — and vocal — attention to Church matters,  odd for a people who are such professed agnostics. In a notorious recent case, the Bishop of Limburg was publicly humiliated, ostensibly for lavish spending. In a astounding display of group-think, this scion of a famous noble family was painfully crucified in the media, and forced to step down. More than a few priests have privately confided that the Bishop’s crime did not involve money at all, but rather his efforts to instill orthodoxy in a diocese out of control.

German Church Slaps a  Stigma on the Latin Mass

Clown Masses, ‘masses’ presided over by women, masses with liturgies made up on the fly — according to many Catholics, the Latin Mass is the one innovation that the power structure of the German Church is loath to permit. For a country that is avowedly uninterested in ecclesiastical matters, online articles about the Latin Mass draw an astonishing amount of ire from commenters who assert that they are ‘normal’ Catholics. Unsurprisingly, Catholics who attend the Latin Mass will often not discuss this with their family or neighbors for fear of being ostracized.

Outsiders can be forgiven if they observe that this strange social stigma is redolent of an earlier, nastier era when opposition to Nazi ideology was similarly dealt with. (For more about what happened to those who resisted the zeitgeist during Nazi times, see here.) Fascinatingly, this smear on the Mass of Ages seems to stem from an apparently invented connection with Nazism.

Who made this odd connection? What is its nature? Diligent investigations for any proven historical evidence for this have led us precisely nowhere.The most we’ve been able to uncover is a distaste for tradition and an almost complete lack of historical perspective rooted in the counter-culture movement of the 1960s, which period in Germany has now assumed a halo of righteousness.

The greying ’68-er’ generation here — university students in the pivotal year of 1968 — continue to be revered for their ‘brave’ stance in opposing their parents’ Nazi past. Their tastes and ideas dominate everything in Germany; it may or may not be merely coincidental that their children are failing to form families. One thing is certain: the imminent passing of this 68-er generation will go unmarked by Last Rites, and they will not be mourned at Requiem Masses.

But it is possible that the stigma surrounding the Latin Mass is merely evidence of the Arian power structure’s terror of being supplanted. After all, there are only two forces which such a thoroughly modern Church has to fear: secularization (when the State grabs the Church’s assets) or the influence of the Faith, itself.

The real thing, that is.

A Future for a Thoroughly Modern Church?

If the real Faith does not prevail in Germany, most Germans now accept that the State takeover of Church properties is inevitable, probably within two decades. This will be because the nearly 650,000 employees of the Church cannot be sustained by 9% of the income tax paid by dead Catholics. It’s a demographic cliff that is looming.

Why is this country so important for Catholics outside Germany? In short, because its wealth makes it politically powerful;  it remains the driving economic force of the European Union. Influence accompanies wealth, of course — this is  as true in the Vatican as it is in Congress, Parliament or the Bundestag.

But what of the future of Catholicism in a country with a declining population, no seminarians, disbelief in dogma — which is openly antagonistic to the Faith?

Thanks be to God, it is not as bleak as it seems.

This is because — unknown to most ‘educated’ Germans today – Catholicism formed their civilization, beginning with an English monk who found his way to Mainz in the 500s. And it continues today, with brave German Catholics risking  ostracism from both their culture and their Church in order to pass the Faith on.

Our story begins with Boniface — and “The Secret Catholic Insider Guide to Germany” goes on to show how St. Peter’s Barque remains afloat in the stormiest of ideological seas.

Because even in Germany, the Faith will not die.

In Christ,

Beverly Stevens

Wiesbaden, Germany

March 2014


The Second Rome

Christian Trier in Germany

by Christoph Pitsch

Trier is an ancient German city near the Luxembourg and French borders. At the 2002 inauguration Mass of then-Bishop Marx at Trier,* Bishop Kamphaus of Limburg brought something special with him – ‘the crozier of St. Peter.’  The metropolitan Archbishop of Cologne ceremonially presented this to Bishop Marx “as a visible symbol of the communion of the church of Trier to St. Peter and his successors.“

The Legend of ‘St. Peter’s Crozier’

Of course, Peter lived hundreds of years before croziers became ecclesiastical paraphernalia, but the secret behind this crozier is a fascinating legend about the foundation of the Church in Trier (Roman ‘Treverus’—from which the Christian name ‘Trevor’ comes).

According to this legend, St. Eucharius and St. Valerius, disciples of St. Peter,  together with St. Maternus, left Rome to  preach the Gospel north of the Alps. (Other legends say they were sent as priest, deacon and subdeacon respectively.)

Upon reaching present-day Alsace-Lorraine, Maternus died from exhaustion.  Eucharius and Valerius, discouraged, returned to Rome. There, St. Peter gave them his crosier and sent them to Maternus again, where they resurrected him using St. Peter’s crosier. Then, Eucharius and Valerius proceeded to Trier to found a Christian community and Maternus did the same in Cologne.

ANCIENT GRAVES OF Saints Eucharius and Valerius, disciples of St. Peter — first bishops of Trier.
St Maternus, according to legend miraculously resurrected by St. Peter’s Crozier, went on to become the first Bishop of Cologne.


The Real History of Trier

How much of this is true? In fact, according to the medieval episcopal lists, Eucharius was the actual first bishop of Trier in the 200s.  Valerius is listed as the second. Maternus, who was the first bishop of Cologne (Roman ‘Colonnia’) is mentioned as the third bishop of Trier. But these sources also state that there was Christian life in Trier before these three holy bishops.

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ROMAN RUINS TOWER OVER HUMAN SCALE showing the grandeur of Imperial Rome in Trier more than 2000 years later.

Augusta Treverorum (Trier) was founded in 30 BC as an imperial residence of the Roman Emperor and capital of the province of Gallia Belgica.  It was the most important city north the Alps; even today Trier is filled with buildings of amazing antiquity – Roman baths, arenas, even wine warehouses that date back to ancient Roman times. (Editor’s Note: One of Germany’s best-kept secrets is the unbelievable scope and breadth of ancient Roman ruins at Trier — unrivaled anywhere in Europe besides Rome itself.)

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INTERIOR OF ROMAN RUINS AT TRIER, still solidly built after twenty centuries.

Trier was also the site of one of the most notorious slaughterings of Christians, when during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian the Trier governor Rictiovarus carried out the atrocities. When  soldiers of his own Roman Legion refused to renounce Christ, they were put to death by the sword on the Roman bridge over the Moselle River, which still stands.

Local legends say the Moselle ‘ran red with the blood of the martyrs’ for miles — and that Christians downstream collected the remains and buried them. These remains are today under the churches of St. Paulinus, St. Maximian and St Matthias. (In 1990, excavations for the regional museum uncovered the remains of 1300 at the church of St. Maxmian — now in State hands — alone.)

Early Christian Trier

After the promulgation of the Edict of Milan under emperor Constantine, Christianity was no longer illegal. By then, Constantine’s mother, Helena, had retired to Trier. (Some say she founded a convent there.) Then came the so-called ‘Constantinian Shift,’ when the Empire became Christian.

So, where to build the first Christian basilica on German soil? Literally, on the foundations of the palace of St. Helena. 

From this ancient basilica the present double – church complex of the ‘Cathedral’ (in Latin, ‘seat’) of the Bishop of Trier developed. Today, the Roman basilica sits beside a beautiful Gothic church in the shape of a rose, dedicated to Our Lady — the oldest Gothic church in Germany.

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BUILT ON THE FOUNDATIONS OF ST HELENA’S PALACE Trier’s ancient Cathedral stands next to the Church of Our Lady (right).

The Benedictine Abbey of St Matthias at Trier houses the only remains of an Apostle north of the Alps. The Abbey itself was built on land belonging to a Roman Senator from Trier. In recent decades, a stupendous archaeological find there revealed the bones of hundreds of Christians surrounding a Roman sarcophagus buried deep under the Abbey grounds for many centuries.

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TRIER CITYSCAPE NEAR THE BISHOP’S PALACE incorporates the elements of centuries of Catholic history.

St Helena and the Holy Robe

Legend has it that Helena found the Cross and the Robe of Christ during her pilgrimage to Jerusalem. She was a lady much advanced in years when she visited the Holy Land, and both the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem were built on Helena’s orders.

Today the Holy Robe (“Heilige Rock’) of Christ is kept in the Cathedral of Trier – one of the most important relics of our Lord. (Editor’s Note: Why do Catholics venerate relics? See here.)

Trier in the Center of the Storm

This was a time of stormy church-political and theological controversies. A man named Arius in Egypt preached that the Son of God did not always exist, but was created by – and is therefore distinct from – God the Father. This was the first heresy to rock Christianity, which it did to its very roots.

(Arianism is actually a debate we can see today as well, when people ask ‘Is Jesus Christ ‘God’ or was he simply a social reformer?’)

This controversy assumed even greater dimensions and only finally ended in the First Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), from whence we get the Nicene Creed which we recite at every Mass.  Two of the leading bishops against Arius were Father Athanasius of Alexandria – one of the four Great Doctors of the church — and Bishop Paulinus. St. Paulinus was at one time the only bishop who would not conform to the rampant Arian heresy that swept through the Church. For his faithful witness, he was exiled from Trier to Turkey, where he died.

Paulinus_von_TrierWhat role did Trier play? After the council, in which the teachings of Arius were rejected and the Nicene Creed agreed upon by the bishops, Athanasius fell into disfavor with Emperor Constantine and was banished  to Trier, where Paulinus was the bishop.

At the same time, another Church Father participated in the dispute with Arius – the great Ambrose of Milan. He is known as the composer of the Catholic hymn the Te Deum and as the one who baptized St. Augustine. Another legend says that as Augustine was being baptized, he intoned the first line of this hymn and that Ambrose answered. Today the Te Deum is sung at the end of every year in every Catholic church in the world.


Ambrose was born in Trier, the son of a Roman prefect.

The Second Rome

We can see that the Church of Trier played a very important role in defending and preaching the Faith in history – literally a second Rome. The immense ruins of the ancient Roman civilization surround us at Trier, and the literal handing-on of that civilization through the Faith to us in the present day is apparent with every step through the old City.


All these Trier symbols, relics and legends have one thing in common: they demonstrate to the faithful what our origins are. We in Trier were the first Christians on German soil. This is our pride, and our responsibility.

(Editor’s Note: Marx is now cardinal and archbishop of Munich and a member of the group of eight cardinals advising Pope Francis.)

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ROMAN RUINS, the most extensive in Europe, north of the Alps at Trier, Germany.

PHOTO CREDITS: All photos by Harry Stevens except lead photo of the Porta Nigra city gate at Trier by Pit Perrot.

Midsummer on the Moselle for A Latin Mass Wedding

Jens and Susanne very much wanted to be married in the Extraordinary Rite in their beautiful hometown of Cochem on the Moselle, a river which winds through vineyards between Germany, Luxembourg and France. In this article, Susanne recounts the extraordinary events around their TLM wedding in mid-summer 2013 for Regina Magazine.

By Susanne Michels

Jens and I were engaged one year before our wedding; he is 27 and I am 24 years old. We live in Mainz during the week, where we both went to university and where I work part-time. Every weekend we return to our hometown Cochem to see our families and Jens works there as a piano teacher.

Jens was the one to introduce me to the Latin Mass in 2008. I had heard about a priest in the neighboring town who had been saying the early morning mass in the Old Rite for quite some time, but I knew too little about it and had never been there. Only a couple of days after we started dating Jens invited me to join him.

Amazed at the solemnity and silence

I remember that at first I was amazed at the solemnity and the silence. I felt that, probably for the first time in my life, I was truly able to pray. Soon I began to learn more about the traditional Latin Mass and I’m still learning new things all the time.

I don’t think our families were too surprised when we told them what we had planned for our wedding, because we had been going to the TLM regularly for a long time.

Some of our guests knew the TLM from their childhood or early adulthood, but had not been able to attend one since, amongst them were my grandparents. My grandfather gave me his Missal when he heard that I had started hearing the Mass in the old Rite with Jens – he was very pleased when we told him about the wedding and he keeps saying that he enjoyed it very much.

Others had been introduced to the TLM later in their lives –  they were very happy to have the opportunity to attend a Solemn Mass (Missa Solemnis).

Not so weird or boring

Most of our guests though – especially friends and family members our age –had never been to a TLM. Some were curious, others rather skeptical. The latter seemed surprised that the Mass didn’t turn out as “weird“ or boring as they had thought.

In the end the responses were very positive: almost all our guests found it very solemn and moving.

Perfect motivation to learn the Mass

We soon had to learn that there are people (even within the Church) who strongly dislike the thought of the Latin Mass being held.

Knowing this, we are even more thankful for all the support we had during the process of planning the wedding and now as a married couple. There was the priest, Jens’ former lecturer at university who lives in Brasil and who started teaching himself the TLM when we told him we would get married and asked him to do the ceremony. He had always wanted to learn the TLM and this was the perfect motivation. How could we ever thank him enough for everything he did for us?

Then there was the old friend from university – he and Jens had been studying Catholic theology together (Jens will be a school teacher, the friend became a priest). He was the deacon in the Mass. He was ordained in the Extraordinary Form, thus very experienced, and could help all of us and guide us. He would also remind us that we’d only need to trust whenever we struggled with all the stress and he heard our confessions on the morning of the wedding day.

Filling in on short notice

The third priest, who was the sub-deacon in the Mass, filled in for somebody else on short notice. We first went to his church in Trier on Palm Sunday in 2013, because they had needed someone to play the organ – we’ve been going there almost every Sunday ever since.

We were warmly welcomed by the most lovely community and a wonderful, warm- hearted priest. We very much felt like we finally found a new home after the priest who held the old mass near Cochem took up a new parish in Switzerland.

The altar boys from Trier agreed to help out at our wedding and they even made time to practise beforehand with the priest. Their families made the effort to come to our wedding, too, and so did many other members of the community, which we are very grateful to them for.

Many churches, or vestries today are unfortunately missing the equipment for the Extraordinary Rite, such as garments for a Solemn High Mass. Again, we had to rely on outside help, which we received.

Since not many organists have enough experience with old Masses, we had to improvise. One of our witnesses, Jens ‘ friend and former piano teacher was of course during the ceremony itself not sitting at the organ. We were so grateful that he was willing to arrange for another organist to accompany the first part of the Mass. What would we have done without all of them?

Recognizing the profound truth in the Mass
Of course, today there are not always and everywhere the perfect conditions for a TLM. With the necessary trust in God and the many dear people who have already discovered the beauty of the Mass in the Extraordinary Rite, a dignified and solemn mass will be in honor of God.

How many people have never had the chance to attend such a Mass? Those who are allowed to experience it once, recognize the profound truth in it.


 PHOTOS: Karin Scheuer of Cochem, Germany

True Grit

An Update on the Latin Mass in Germany

Monika Rheinschmitt is a trained computer scientist. These days, however, she keeps a weather eye on some numbers she couldn’t have imagined in her university days — developments in Catholicism and the growth of the Latin Mass in the German-speaking world.

Monika is the Stuttgart-based Director of Pro Missa Tridentina, one of the most active organizations on the planet to practically support the Latin Mass. Since 1990 she has been the editor and publisher of a traditional newsletter, in 2010 upgraded to the magazine “Dominus vobiscum”, which is published twice a year and avidly read in Germany, Alsace, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Belgium and the Netherlands.

An Interview with Monika Rheinschmitt of Pro Missa Tridentina in Germany

Hers is not an easy job, not the least because in these countries the Latin Mass faces an unimaginable uphill battle. In Germany and its neighboring lands, secular attitudes range from indifferent to hostile about the idea of religion itself. Within the Church, both traditional teachings and the traditional rite are often suppressed, ignored or ridiculed in ways that might astonish outsiders.

Even though the numbers of Mass-goers and Catholics continue to drop precipitously in these countries, there seems to be little awareness on the part of Church leadership of the significant power of the Extraordinary Form to attract converts and indeed to bring Catholics home again. (For more about the German church see here.)

Against this background, the gains that the Latin Mass has made are a testimony to the true grit of Catholics, laity and clergy alike. In this exclusive interview with Regina Magazine, Monika gives us a view into her world.

Q. Tell us about Pro Missa Tridentina. When was it founded, and by whom?
Pro Missa Tridentina was founded in Stuttgart in Spring 1990 as an association of  laypeople dedicated to the care of the Traditional Latin Rite of the Catholic Mass. We work to promote this “Vetus Ordo” by supporting Catholic laity who wish to be able to assist at this beautiful rite. That includes the organization of trainings for priests, altar servers and choirs as well as practical help finding locations for the Mass – and from writing letters to the local bishop to preparing the first celebration of a Traditional Latin Mass.


Q. What progress do you see being made, say, since the Motu Proprio of 2007 in Germany?
Immediately after the 2007 Motu Proprio, there was a significant jump in the number of Latin Masses available around Germany. From Regina Magazine‘s reports on England and America I see that there has been an impressive growth since 2007 as well. What is remarkable about Germany is that there was an immediate increase – more than threefold the number of Masses in 2008, followed by a very quick leveling-off.

GERMAN CATHOLICS LEARN GREGORIAN CHANT in classes organized by Pro Missa Tridentina

Q. What do you attribute this to?
I believe the slang phrase is ‘clamp-down’ in American English. The German bishops moved quickly to suppress the Mass, though officially of course this was forbidden by the Motu Proprio.

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AFTER THE 2007 MOTU PROPRIO there was an immediate increase in Latin Masses in Germany– more than threefold the number of Masses in 2008 —  followed by a very quick leveling-off.

Q. How would you characterize the growth in the TLM in Germany?
When we started in 1990, there were exactly four TLMs available in all of Germany.  Today there are now approximately 150 TLMs in Germany — and 36 in Austria, 37 in Switzerland, 4 in Liechtenstein, 4 in Alsace, 1 in Luxembourg, 4 in the South Tyrol, 17 in Belgium and 12 in the Netherlands. Of course, these Masses are not always regularly scheduled on Sundays.

GERMAN CATHOLICS SUPPORT THE LATIN MASS at events such as the Eucharistic Congress organized by Pro Missa Tridentina and other groups.

Q. That is significant growth! How has this been accomplished?
A lot of hard work on the part of many, many laypersons and priests. Most have had to face a real struggle to find a church where the Rite can be celebrated and a priest who was willing to be trained and to offer the Mass. Then of course many bishops will forbid the advertisement of the Mass, so the only way the faithful can learn of it is through word of mouth – or through the use of the Internet.

GERMANY’S BAROQUE CHURCHES were built for the Latin Mass. Here it is again being celebrated in Regensburg’s Alte Kapelle (‘Old Chapel’).

For many years Pro Missa Tridentina has maintained a website ( ) which supplies not only information about the Traditional Latin Mass but also lists of locations for many countries and several maps.


Q. This impediment seems counter-productive in a Church which is rapidly losing membership, either through natural attrition (death) or through Catholics simply deciding not to pay their Church tax.
A. Yes, it seems so to me and to quite a few others. But this doesn’t seem to be a rational decision; in fact it is much more ideological in nature, this resistance on the part of these older clerics. (Editor’s Note: For more about the German church tax see here.)

BISHOP KLAUS DICK WAS THE CELEBRANT at the Mass at the church of Saint Kunibert in Cologne for the 2013 Eucharistic Congress.

Q. What of the future?
A. Since many years we are seeing a lot of youth and young families becoming in-terested in the Mass, and their Faith is being strengthened. Most have not been catechized; they don’t know their Faith, but they are attracted by the beauty and reverence of this ancient Rite.

BAPTISM IN THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM at Maria Hilf, a parish staffed by the Fraternity of St. Peter in Cologne.

They are insisting on the other sacraments as well: from Weddings to Baptism, from First Holy Communion to the Anointing of the Sick, Catholics in Germany continue to plead to receive the abundance of graces of their new spiritual home – the Traditional Latin Mass.


For further information please contact: 

Monika Rheinschmitt

Laienvereinigung für den klassischen römischen Ritus in der Katholischen Kirche 

(Pro Missa Tridentina)

Fraschstrasse 6

70825 Korntal Germany


Phone: +49 711 8387877+49 711 8387877

German Catholic Church, Inc.

By Harry Stevens

“It is the glory of vain men never to yield to truth. Such vainglory is a deadly passion for those it dominates.  It is a disease that, in spite of every effort, is never cured–not because the doctor is inept, but because the patient is incurable.”

 ‘City of God’ by Saint Augustine of Hippo

In Germany, Catholics are leaving the Church in droves, as an average of 140,000  formally abandon the Faith annually.*  This is easy to track, because numbers are publicly reported in a system where Germans pay 8-9% of their income tax to receive the Sacraments. The church tax is administered by the State on behalf of the Church through a payroll deduction, for a lucrative 2-3% processing fee.

And there is no tax relief. This was clarified at the highest levels when a Catholic canonist asked for relief of his Church tax in 2007.  In response, the German bishops’ conference issued a decree stating that those who have declared to a government registry office that they are no longer members of the Catholic Church will no longer be able to actively participate in Church life nor receive the Sacraments.  Period.

Why are Germans abandoning the Faith? The proximate causes range from well-publicized sex abuse scandals (touched off at a prominent Jesuit boys’ high school in Berlin) to a simple lack of faith. Largely un-catechized and uninterested, German Catholics would rather save the money, it seems.

But that’s not all there is to the story. Closer inspection reveals a German Church which is extremely wealthy and completely unregulated. Digging a little deeper reveals some questionable activities, mostly having to do with profiting from pornography and abortion.

Follow the Euros

Money is pivotal to this discussion. In 2013, the German Catholic Church collected a whopping 5.2 billion euro in church tax, in addition to 100-200 million euros per year in State subsidies from a still-valid 1803 agreement. Other income was derived from multiple sources, including Church ownership of no less than ten banks, several breweries, a mineral water company, and multiple insurance companies. 

Unlike the beleaguered German taxpayer, the Church does not pay tax on Church property. Nor does it pay corporate or capital gains taxes.  Everything it does as a public corporation in Germany is considered charitable and tax-exempt and guaranteed by the German constitution.

Also, unlike other public corporations like universities, the Church is not subject to any state supervision of its finances. 

As for German bishops, “Most Americans would be a bit shocked to learn that German bishops make between €8000 ($10,965) and €11,500 ($15,763) a month, depending upon their seniority. That comes to between $131,000 and $189,000 a year…. In short, the German clergy may have a real financial interest in keeping the flock happy so they continue to pay that tax and not drop out.”*****

Catholic Church, Inc.

This all means a tremendous amount of money in the German bishops’ hands. The Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church combined are the second largest employers in Germany, with the Catholic Church employing 650,000 people, plus another 600,000 volunteers. In 2011 (the latest date available) the Church spent  129 million Euro in its dioceses. 

The Catholic Church provides many social services for the elderly, infirm, and youth through organizations such as Caritas (‘Catholic Charities’ in the USA).  Through these channels, the bishops’ influence reaches far and wide within the German Catholic community of 24 million. (Though only a tiny fraction — 2.8 million — actually attend weekly Mass.)

The Publishing Business

While it might seem that the German Church has more than enough revenue, apparently this has not been the case. Weltbild was the second largest bookselling company in Germany in 2011, with annual sales of $2.1 billion.  Until that year, it was 100% owned by the German bishops’ conference.

In addition to a lucrative pornographic book publishing company that carried some 2,500 titles, Weltbild also sold books promoting satanism, the occult, esotericism, and anti-Christian atheist propaganda.  

After years of public complaints, articles in Der Spiegel and a rebuke from Pope Benedict,** the German bishops’ conference finally announced that they had sold the company.  Many believed the bishops’ shares were liquidated in 2011. 

As of November 2013, however, it was still being reported that the Diocese of Augsburg, and the Archdioceses of Munich and Freiberg still owned parts of Weltbild.   On January 19, 2014, parts of the company filed for insolvency.***

Profiting from Abortion 

After German reunification in 1989, new laws came into effect stating that abortion would be legal within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, but only after the woman received counseling on her decision.

Naturally, counseling would be well-compensated, paid for by the German State. The Catholic Bishops promptly organized a counseling service, which for a decade received state moneys for issuing certificates which permitted women to have abortions.

On January 26, 1998 Pope John Paul II asked the German bishops to withdraw from this lucrative side business.  Cardinal Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation for the Faith, was given the task of carrying out the Pope’s instructions. 

More than a year later, the German bishops finally responded, unanimously rejecting the Pope’s demand. On  November 20, 1999, JPII specifically instructed the German bishops in a letter that in the future pregnant women should no longer be issued any certificates by the counseling service of the German Bishops. 

It wasn’t until March 8, 2002 – four years later — that the German bishops finally removed themselves from this counseling business in all dioceses. ****

The Root of All Evil

Reviewing these facts, it is easy to conclude that the Bible is correct; the love of money may well be the root of all evil. Bearing this in mind, perhaps there is a bit more to the steady exodus of German Catholics from the Church than what the German media reports.

For, in addition to the fact that Catholics are getting very little for their money, there are very serious ethical questions indeed about how it is being used by the German Church.

 *All statistics from the official website of the German Bishops’ Conference, which has  reported Catholics leaving as follows: 2010 (181,193);  2011 (126,48 ) and 2012 (118,3350).


2013 stats in English, Catholics reported leaving as follows: (178,805), deaths (252,344), total 431,149. New members 3,062.

2014 stats in German, Catholics reported leaving as follows: (217,716), deaths (240, 262), total 457,978.  New members 2809 Here

2015 stats in German, Catholics reported leaving as follows:  (181,925), deaths (254,260), total 463,185. New members 2685.



****Article by Stephan Köhnlein at Cathcon:


More sources:

Success in the City

FSSP’s Growing Congregation in Cologne

Since the foundation of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) in the Fall of 1988 in Germany, the Fraternity has established numerous houses around the world. With an average age of 38 among its more than 400 priests, this thriving Fraternity is now active in Australia, Belgium, Canada,  Colombia, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy,  México, Netherlands,  Nigeria, Austria,  Poland,  Switzerland and the USA.

by Beverly Stevens

The Fraternity’s Maria Hilf (“Mary, Helper”) parish is located in an Cologne urban neighborhood rebuilt after the devastating bombing of World War II. The church building has a stripped-down facade and 1950s modernistic stained glass windows. Only in recent years have confessionals have been added.

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MARIA HILF in Cologne, Germany

Where religion plays virtually no role

Although Cologne is the largest Catholic diocese, the success of Maria Hilf must be understood in the context of a modern German city where religion plays virtually no role in the lives of most inhabitants. Like most German cities, families are small, splintered or failing to form at all in Cologne. Unlike New York, Paris and London, however, which enjoy enthusiastically-supported venues for the Traditional Latin Mass, Cologne did not have a church dedicated to the the TLM until 2004.

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FATHER MIGUEL STEGMAIER, FSSP outside Maria Hilf in Cologne, Germany.

Intriguingly, with the support of Una Voce, the Fraternity has been able to build a growing congregation in the last ten years. Dr. Johann von Behr of Una Voce Cologne agreed to talk with Regina Magazine about their experience there.

“From our first year in Maria Hilf, about 10 years ago, we have found a numerous and still growing congregation, especially  at our Sunday Masses,” said Dr Von Behr.  “Since it was the decision of our archbishop, Joachim Cardinal Meisner, to give us this church with a renting contract of at least 25 years, we did not encounter much resistance from our neighbors.”

Ten years of significant growth

Maria Hilf has experienced significant growth since 2004.

“When we started, our faithful were perhaps 50  parishioners every Sunday, with of course much less during the week,” Dr Von Behr estimates. “Today, we normally have least twice that at each Mass.”

PROCESSION with the Blessed Sacrament at Maria Hilf.

 Like many Latin Mass parishes,  a dedicated music program has been key to this growth.

“At present we are happy to have three different Gregorian scholas and choirs singing regularly the liturgy on all Sundays and feasts,” said Dr. Von Behr. “One of them is the well-known Schola Cantorum Coloniensis with about 20 singers, founded more than 30 years ago at the Musicological Institute of the Cologne University. The organ music and singing of all liturgical services is conducted by three renowned professional musicians.”


Parish families are keen to have their sons serve as altar servers.

“We have about 6 to 8 altar servers each Sunday,  children between the ages of about eight to fifteen years. They are all very enthusiastic and come regularly  to assist at the Sunday Masses. Beside them we have another array of four to six adults who are also able to do the altar service.”

APPROACHING THE CHURCH FOR EASTER VIGIL MASS, FSSP priests and altar servers in Cologne, Germany

Traveling for the Mass

Cologne has a substantial international community, but “the parishioners of our church are nearly exclusively Germans, many of them inhabitants of Cologne, but also many who come from outside Cologne. For a couple of years we had a French family that came every Sunday, with two children who also helped as altar servers.”

LENTEN SERVICE at Maria Hilf in Cologne, Germany

Again, like most Latin Mass parishes, the pattern of growth includes attracting young families.

“There are more and more young people and young families that come to Maria Hilf,” according to Dr. Von Behr, “We presume that the word about the Extraordinary Form of the holy Mass is getting around between them after they seem to have turned away from the ordinary form.”

BAPTISM IN THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM at Maria Hilf in Cologne Germany

Frequent confessions and religious vocations

The newly-built confessionals at Maria Hilf stand out against the manifest general tendency of Catholics in Germany to avoid this Sacrament.

“The Extraordinary Form of the Mass and Confession belong very close together,” Dr. Von Behr explains. “So we have many opportunities for Confession in our church, which are very well attended. Our parishioners and others often take advantage of the Sacrament.”

WELCOMING A NEW CHRISTIAN in the grace of Baptism in the Extraordinary Form.

Finally, Maria Hilf seems to be following a similar pattern for most TLM parishes of producing religious vocations.

“Personally, I know of one vocation in our parish of a young man who entered into a traditional monastery,” Dr. Von Behr said. “But there may have been more vocations which I am unaware of.”

FIRST HOLY COMMUNION in the Extraordinary Form at Maria Hilf.

Germany’s Grand Catholic Knights

by Michael Durnan

In the summer of 1991 I spent two weeks touring Poland. One of the most impressive places on my sightseeing itinerary was the medieval castle of Malbork located in Pomerania east of Gdansk on the River Nogat. This massive building is the largest castle by surface area in the world and the largest building made of brick in Europe. Why was this massive fortress constructed and by whom?

Malbork castle was built on the orders of the Teutonic Knights, or to give them their full and proper title, the ‘Order of Brothers of the German House of St. Mary in Jerusalem.’  (In German, ‘Orden der Bruder vom Deutschen Haus St. Mariens in Jerusalem.’)

The Knights were one of the military religious orders established in Catholic Europe during medieval times. Other leading military religious orders of the time included the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitallers of St. John.

The Teutonic Knights, and the other military religious orders, were founded to give aid, assistance, and protection to Christian pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land, as well to establish and run hospitals.


The German Travelers in the Holy Land

They were founded at the end of the 12th century in Acre, in the Holy Land, or as that region was known, the Levant. The Order’s origins go back to the year 1143 when Pope Celestine II ordered the Knights Hospitaller of St. John to take over the running and management of a hospital that accommodated countless German-speaking pilgrims and crusaders who spoke neither the local language, nor Old French, nor Latin.

Although the hospital belonged to the Knights Hospitaller, the pope commanded that the Prior and the brothers of the Domus Theutonicorum, (‘House of Germans’) always should be German speakers. Thus the tradition of a German-led institution was established in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.


After the loss of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, some merchants from Lubeck and Bremen took up the idea of a field hospital during the siege of Acre. This field hospital became the nucleus of the future Order formally recognized in 1192 by Pope Celestine III.

Becoming a Military Order
At first its brothers followed the Augustinian Rule, but in 1198 it developed into a fully-fledged military religious order based on the Knights Templar, with its head known as the ‘Grand Master.’ The Order was granted papal orders to participate in crusades to retake Jerusalem as well as to defend the Holy Land from attacks by Muslim Saracens. Under Grand Master Hermann von Salza, the order made the final transition from being a hospice brotherhood for pilgrims to being primarily a military order.


Emperor Frederick II raised his friend, von Salza, to the rank of Reichfurst, or Prince of the Empire. When Frederick was crowned King of Jerusalem in 1225, the Teutonic Knights provided his escort in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

In spite of this honour and recognition, the Teutonic Knights never became as influential in the Holy Land as the Templars and the Hospitallers. Events nearer home would provide a new crusade and role for the Teutonic Knights and would shift their focus to the Baltic and Eastern Europe.

The Knights in the Baltic
This new opportunity came in 1226 in north-eastern Poland, when Duke of Masovia, Konrad I, appealed to the Knights for military assistance to defend his borders from attack and to subdue the pagan Baltic Prussians. During the next fifty years the Teutonic Knights engaged in a fierce and bloody crusade to conquer Prussia and to subjugate, kill, or expel any native Prussians who remained unbaptized. The Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor issued charters granting the knights Prussia as a sovereign monastic state, similar to that of the Knights Hospitallers on Malta.

The Knights encouraged immigration from the Holy Roman Empire to boost the population, which had been reduced severely by the war. The settlers established new towns on the site of Old Prussian ones and the knights built several castles from which they could defend attacks by Old Prussians.

Having conquered Prussia, the Knights turned their attention to pagan Lithuania, and it took 200 years before they conquered and converted Lithuania to Christianity. Other conquests included the city of Danzig, (in Polish, ‘Gdansk’) and the region of Pomeralia along the Baltic  which provided a land bridge to the Holy Roman Empire. The capture of Danzig in 1307 marked a new phase in the Knights’ development, and it was after this they moved their headquarters from Venice to Malbork Castle.

The Decline Sets In
In 1410, after the Knights were defeated at the Battle of Grunewald by a combined Polish-Lithuanian army, the Teutonic Order went into decline, losing lands, military strength, and power. Eventually the Teutonic Order was expelled from Prussia after a war with Poland and Lithuania. In 1525 Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg converted to Lutheranism and secularized the remaining Prussian territories. The Teutonic Order suffered further losses of its lands that remained in the Holy Roman Empire. In 1555, after the Peace of Ausberg, the Teutonic Order allowed its first Lutheran members, though it still remained largely Catholic.

The military history of the Teutonic Knights ended in 1809, when Napoleon Bonaparte ordered its dissolution, giving its secular holdings to his own vassals and allies. The Knights continued to exist in Austria, out of Napoleon’s grasp. In 1929 the Order was transformed into a purely spiritual Catholic religious order and renamed the Deutscher Orden, or German Order.

Teutonic Knights in Modern Times
Hitler was not a fan of the Knights. After Austria’s annexation by the Nazis in 1938, the Order was suppressed throughout his Greater German Reich, although it continued to function in Italy. With the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, the Order was reconstituted in Austria and Germany.

The Teutonic Knights are divided into three branches, one Catholic and two Protestant. The Protestant branches are based in Utrecht, The Netherlands and in Brandenburg, Germany. The Catholic branch of the Teutonic Knights now includes 1,000 associates, including 100 priests, 200 nuns, and 700 associates, with the priests providing spiritual guidance and the nuns caring for the sick and aged. The associates are active in Belgium, Austria, Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic.

Many of the Order’s priests provide pastoral care for German speakers outside of German-speaking lands, especially in Italy and Slovenia. In this way the Teutonic Order has returned to its original spiritual roots of providing aid and assistance to German speakers outside of their homelands.



The current headquarters of the Grand Master is located in Vienna at the Deutschordenkirche. Since 1996 there has been a museum located in Bad Mergentheim in Germany that is dedicated to telling the story of the Teutonic Knights.