Monday, February 16, 2009

The Lion of Münster

Clemens August Cardinal Graf von Galen arriving back in Münster, Germany after receiving the Cardinal`s hat from Pope Pius XII in Rome in March 1946

For a brief life of Blessed Cardinal Graf von Galen (March 16, 1878 – March 22, 1946) and his three famous sermons against the Nazis, see here.

The speeches protested against the desecration of Catholic churches, the 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 is question had died).

After having preached these sermons the Bishop was prepared to be arrested by the Gestapo. It was Reichsleiter Bormann who suggested to Hitler, that the Bishop should be taken into custody and be hanged.

The Nazi command, however, feared that in such a case the population of the diocese of Munster had to be written off as lost for the duration of the war.

The Bishop was deeply dejected when in his place 24 secular priests and 13 members of the regular clergy were deported into concentration camps, of whom 10 lost their lives.

In his speech to the crowds in Münster in 1946 after receiving the Cardinal`s hat , he said:

"Thousands of people felt painfully with me and like me that the truth of God and the justice of God, human dignity and the human rights were being set aside, despised and trampled on; with me and like me they felt it a bitter injustice also toward the true well-being of our people that the religion of Christ was hemmed in and ever more confined. I knew that many had suffered grievous wrong, very much more grievous than what I myself suffered personally, in the persecutions of truth and justice that we have been through.

They could not speak, they could only suffer. Perhaps in the eyes of God – for whom suffering, yes suffering, weighs much more than acting and speaking – and perhaps also many of those here now have in reality merited more in the sacred eyes of God, because they have suffered more than me.

But my right and my duty was to speak out and I spoke out, for you, for the countless persons gathered here, for the countless people of our beloved country of Germany, and God blessed my words, and your love and your fidelity, my beloved diocesans, kept me from what could have been my end, but perhaps they also prevented me from receiving the more beautiful reward, [in a voice choked with tears] the glorious crown of martyrdom.

Your fidelity prevented it. Because you were behind me, and the powerful knew that the people and the bishop in the diocese of Münster formed an unbreakable unity, and that, had they struck at the bishop, all the people would have felt stricken."

The epitaph engraved on his sepulchral monument is:

"Unfortunately, the conditions of the times strongly dissipate the effectiveness of the virtues of even the best of men"