Comment by Professor Paul Weller on: German Catholic Bishops’ Document on the Second World War

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Professor Paul Weller Comments on:

German Catholic Bishops’ Statement on the Second World War

 

Issued just prior to the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the 29th April statement of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference marks another important milestone on the long road travelled by German Christians and ecclesial bodies in formally coming to terms with what was unleashed by the Second World War, and in recognising the general failure of the Christian Churches in Germany at a time of great challenge to their integrity.

As with the executed Protestant Christian pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, there were individual Catholics such as the priest, Max Josef Metzger, the founder of the German Catholics' Peace Association, who worked for the end to the war, and who was executed following his arrest for trying to send a memorandum to the Archbishop of Uppsala in Sweden, on the reorganisation of the German state and its integration into a future system of world peace.

But the Bishops’ statement does not seek to hide behind such individual examples. Rather, it starkly confesses that, “Because the bishops did not oppose the war clearly, but most of them strengthened the will to persevere, they made themselves complicit in the war”.

Coventry, of course, on the night of 14th November 1940, experienced the single most concentrated aerial bombardment on a British city killing just over 500 people, in relation to which Nazi propagandists coined the new German word “Coventrieren” – meaning to  raze a city to the ground. It included the destruction of the city’s Anglican Cathedral. Since then, the new Cathedral and the rebuilt city have chosen to put themselves at the heart of work for peace, including post-war Anglo-German reconciliation. Poignantly, this includes a twinning partnership with the German city of Dresden that, between 13th and 15th February 1945, suffered an unimaginable firestorm from British and American bombing that killed over 25,000 people.

In confessing the failures of German Catholic bishops in the past, it is arguably significant for all Christians of the present, whether in Germany, UK, or other European countries, that the President of the German Episcopal Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing warned of the need learn from that past in order to oppose the “old demon of division, nationalism, ‘ethnic’ thinking and authoritarian rule” that was coming to the fore again in Europe.

 

Paul Weller is Professor in the Faith and Peaceful Relations Research Group of Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations and is married to a German Catholic

 

2nd May 2020

Period2 May 2020

Media contributions

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Media contributions

  • TitleComment by Professor Paul Weller on: German Catholic Bishops’ Document on the Second World War
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletReligionMediaCentre.org.uk
    Media typeWeb
    CountryUnited Kingdom
    Date2/05/20
    DescriptionProfessor Paul Weller comments on a 29th April 2020 Document and accompanying Statement from the German Catholic Bishops' Conference on the Second World War and the role of the German Catholic Bishops in relation to it.
    URLhttps://religionmediacentre.org.uk/news-comment/german-bishops-admit-complicity-in-war/
    PersonsPaul Weller

Keywords

  • German Catholic Bishops
  • Second World War
  • Confession
  • Ethnic Nationalism
  • Coventry
  • Bombing
  • Dresden