German Bishops' Conference

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Current signet of the German Bishops' Conference
A first conference of the German bishops took place in Würzburg in 1848. Lithograph after drawings by Georg Opel

The German Bishops' Conference ( DBK ) is the union of the Roman Catholic bishops of all dioceses in Germany . In addition to the diocesan bishops , the bishops' conference includes the coadjutors , the diocesan administrators and the auxiliary bishops . In May 2019 there were 67 members from the 27 German dioceses. The organization is based in Bonn with its secretariat . The Commissariat of the German Bishops - Catholic Office in Berlin - exists as an additional service of the Bishops' Conference to represent the Church externally to the state and society . On March 3, 2020, the German bishops elected the Bishop of Limburg , Georg Bätzing , as the successor of Cardinal Reinhard Marx as their chairman for six years at their spring plenary meeting in Mainz .

The first German bishops' conference took place from October 23 to November 16, 1848 in Würzburg . In 1867 the German bishops met for the first time "at the grave of St. Boniface " in Fulda ; after that it became a permanent institution. Today's German Bishops' Conference goes back to this predecessor organization.

Secretariat of the German Bishops' Conference in Bonn (2018)

Composition and tasks

According to its statute, the German Bishops' Conference is the “union of the bishops of the (Catholic) particular churches ( dioceses ) in Germany for the purpose of studying and promoting common pastoral tasks, for mutual consultation, for the necessary coordination of church work and for the joint adoption of decisions and for the care of the Connection to other episcopal conferences . "

The German Bishops' Conference is based on the decree of the Second Vatican Council (1965) Christ Dominus (Art. 38) and was standardized in the new ecclesiastical code of 1983 (cc. 447–459 CIC). She is a member of the Council of European Bishops 'Conferences (CCEE) and of the Commission of Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).

The Association of the Dioceses of Germany is the legal entity of the German Bishops' Conference.

The organs of the German Bishops' Conference

Art. 3 of the Council Decree Christ Dominus “laid down the organs of the Bishops' Conference: the plenary assembly, the permanent council, the chairman and the episcopal commissions' to deal with questions of a specific area '. The highest body is the general assembly. "

The General Assembly

The supreme organ of the German Bishops' Conference is the general assembly of the members. It includes the diocesan bishops , the coadjutors , the diocesan administrators , the auxiliary bishops and the other titular bishops with special tasks. The heads of other Catholic rite churches in their own right are advisory members. The apostolic nuncio can take part in an advisory or observational role if necessary; he is not entitled to vote. The tasks of the General Assembly include, among other things, the election of the chairman and the other officials as well as the issuing of doctrinal statements and general decrees . "The Council decree 'Christ Dominus' of October 28, 1965 [...] defined in Art. 38, [...] that the resolutions are passed with 2/3 of the votes of those entitled to vote and how they become final (No. 4)."

All members meet twice a year for a four-day general assembly. The spring assembly takes place at different locations, the autumn assembly always takes place in the Fulda seminary .

The General Assembly has 69 members .

The Permanent Council

"In the 'Permanent Council' each of the 27 (arch) dioceses is represented with a seat and vote by the local ordinary (or, if he is unable to do so, by his representative)."

On the recommendation of a jury of nine, the Permanent Council decides on the winners of the Catholic Children's and Young People's Book Prize, which has been awarded annually by the German Bishops' Conference since 1979 .

The Chairman

The newly elected chairman of the DBK in March 2020, Georg Bätzing, Bishop of Limburg

The chairman, who must be a diocesan bishop , is elected by secret ballot with two thirds of the votes for six years; re-election is possible. He chairs the General Assembly and the Permanent Council and sets the agenda taking into account the requests received; the committees decide on the agenda again at the beginning of their meeting. “He represents the Bishops' Conference externally”; he is bound by their resolutions.

“In the media society, the chairman is not only asked about the resolutions passed, but has to take a position on many events and problems in cultural, political and social life, for which there are very often no direct specifications from resolutions of the bishops' conference. This increases the responsibility and the position of the chairman, especially in society, but also has repercussions for his position in the church and in the bishops' conference. In this sense, contrary to all appearances, the office of chairman is structured relatively openly and rather modestly equipped, can be filled in very different ways - and can perhaps develop a stronger effect than is prescribed in the statute. "

“The chairman's area of ​​responsibility includes not only managing the committees and external representation, but also liaising between the dioceses, first in their own country, but ultimately also in terms of relationships with the center of the universal Church in Rome, with neighboring churches and in the whole world church into it. "

On March 12, 2014, the assembled bishops elected Reinhard Cardinal Marx as the new chairman of the German Bishops' Conference. Bishop Franz-Josef Bode from Osnabrück was elected as deputy chairman on September 26, 2017, succeeding Bishop emeritus Norbert Trelle . Hans Langendörfer SJ will remain secretary of the German Bishops' Conference for another six years .

Head of the Commissariat of the German Bishops , the liaison office to the Federal Government, is Prelate Karl Jüsten .

On March 3, 2020, the Bishops' Conference elected Limburg Bishop Georg Bätzing as its new chairman. Cardinal Reinhard Marx had declared in February 2020 that he would not run again for this office.

The Episcopal Commissions

Additionally established episcopal commissions deal with questions of specific areas of church life (faith commission, ecumenical commission, pastoral commission, liturgy commission, commission for societal and social issues, etc.).

Faith Commission (I)

The task of the Faith Commission encompasses fundamental questions of faith, such as the image of God and the sacraments, and ethical questions of biology and medicine, e.g. B. on the subjects of euthanasia and embryo protection.


Bioethics subcommittee

Sub-commission of the Faith Commission


Ecumenical Commission (II)

The Ecumenical Commission deals with basic ecumenical questions. This includes the doctrine of justification , the understanding of ministry, the image of the church and relationships with non-Catholic churches and communities. Basic questions of ecumenism in theological terms and relations with the non-Catholic churches in Germany are the subject of the commission's task. A sub-commission for interreligious dialogue and a sub-commission for religious relations with Judaism are assigned to it.

The commission is supported by the Johann Adam Möhler Institute for Ecumenism in Paderborn.


Sub-Commission on Religious Relations with Judaism

Sub-commission of the Ecumenical Commission


Pastoral Commission (III)

The pastoral commission observes parish pastoral care, structural changes in pastoral care and pastoral care, and analyzes evangelical developments on the Internet and other areas of society. The pastoral commission is supported by the Catholic Office for Missionary Pastoral in Erfurt .


Subcommittee on Women in Church and Society

Sub-Commission of the Pastoral Commission


Commission for Spiritual Professions and Church Services (IV)

The commission deals with questions of vocational pastoral care and the definition of church services.


Liturgy Commission (V)

The Liturgy Commission advises on all questions relating to the liturgy of the Church. It is supported by the German Liturgical Institute in Trier.


Society and Social Affairs Committee (VI)

This commission elaborated u. a. Papers on the relationship of the Catholic Church to the world of work.


Education and School Commission (VII)


Science and Culture Commission (VIII)


Journalism Commission (IX)

The journalistic commission deals with all questions of church media work. At the initiative of the commission, the DBK media competence clearing office was set up at the Mainz KH .


World Church Commission (X)

Marriage and Family Commission (XI)


Youth Commission (XII)

The youth commission is supported by the office for youth pastoral care of the German Bishops' Conference in Düsseldorf.


Commission for Charitable Questions (XIII)

The commission is supported by the general secretariat of the German Caritas Association in Freiburg.


Migration Commission (XIV)



Paul Cardinal Melchers

The first meeting of German Catholic bishops was the Würzburg Bishops' Conference of 1848 under the direction of the Archbishop of Cologne, Johannes Cardinal von Geissel .

Fulda Bishops' Conference

In 1867, the Fulda Bishops' Conference, named after the place where it was held, was established as a permanent institution and as a free association without any claim to specific powers. The first chairman was the Archbishop of Cologne, Paulus Cardinal Melchers . From 1873 the Bavarian episcopate no longer took part in the meetings, but formed the Freising Bishops' Conference under the direction of the Archbishop of Munich-Freising. Only under the pressure of the political situation did they take part in the Fulda Bishops' Conference again from 1933 onwards.

time of the nationalsocialism

For a long time during the 1930s and during the Second World War, the German bishops had limited themselves to protesting against grievances by submitting petitions to the Reich government, as there was a protracted conflict and a leadership crisis among the bishops, as well as differing views on how to proceed. All in all, the complaints of the Catholic Church were always aimed at violating Catholic interests, not the National Socialist system as such. Protests by the German bishops against judicial murders of opponents of the regime, against the persecution of liberals, democrats and communists did not take place. There was no protest by the bishops against Hitler's attack on Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland, France or the Soviet Union, nor was there a common public protest against pogroms against the Jews, the destruction of synagogues, the abducted and gassed Jews.

It was not until August 1943 that it was decided to publicly express themselves in a common pastoral word entitled “Ten Commandments as the Law of Life of the Nations”, and on September 12, 1943, it was declared: “Killing is inherently bad, even if it is supposedly in the interest of the people The common good was perpetrated: on innocent and defenseless mentally weak and sick people, on incurably sick and fatally injured, on hereditary and unfit newborns, on innocent hostages and disarmed prisoners of war or prisoners, on people of foreign races and origins. "

post war period

After the end of the war, on the initiative of eleven north-west German bishops, the German bishops pleaded guilty on August 23, 1945 in Fulda and declared: "Many Germans, including from our ranks, have been infatuated by the false teachings of National Socialism." They are the crimes remained indifferent to and would even have encouraged them. "Many have become criminals themselves."

In the following decades the bishops - according to the historian Ulrich Helbach - no longer expressed themselves critically about their role or during the Nazi era. Only in their “Word at the end of the Second World War 75 years ago” with the title “ German Bishops in World War ” did the Catholic German bishops comment on the behavior of their predecessors in the Second World War in a joint declaration on April 29, 2020, which was used as a confession of guilt should be understood. They disapproved of the lack of open protest by the German bishops against the National Socialist war of annihilation, both when the war broke out in 1939 and afterwards, and described the behavior of their predecessors as "difficult to understand, if not wrong." The bishops continued to write in 2020: “Even against the monstrous crimes against others who were discriminated against and persecuted as 'non-racial' and persecuted, especially the Jews, hardly a voice was raised in the church in Germany.” Only after an impetus from patient murders and “ monastery storms ” had individual bishops dared open contradiction.

Since the Wall was built in 1961, the East German bishops could no longer take part in the plenary assemblies and founded the “Berlin Ordinarienkonferenz” as separate assemblies, which was renamed “ Berlin Bishops' Conference ” in 1976 and expressly emphasized that it was only based on pastoral needs and did not recognize the division of Germany mean.

At the end of the Second Vatican Council on November 18, 1965 , the Polish bishops addressed a message to the members of the German Bishops' Conference, which, in view of the countless deaths and displaced persons on both sides, culminated in the sentence: "We forgive and ask for forgiveness." at the communist government of the People's Republic of Poland on resolute opposition. The German bishops replied on December 5, 1965, very distantly and disappointingly for the Polish bishops, as they had hoped for a statement about the Oder-Neisse border ; In Germany it was feared that a statement about the recognition of the German-Polish border would be difficult to convey to the faithful, especially those who were expelled from their homeland.

German Bishops' Conference

During the Second Vatican Council, the Bishops 'Conference also received its canonical foundation as the German Bishops' Conference: In the decree Christ Dominus (No. 37f) it was recognized under canon law and, according to the guidelines for the establishment of national bishops 'conferences in 1966, was renamed the "German Bishops' Conference". Subsequently, in addition to the diocesan bishops, the auxiliary bishops also took part in the meetings, which were to take place annually in Fulda in autumn and in different locations in spring.

The history of the Bishops' Conference since the Second World War was decisively shaped by its long-time chairmen Joseph Cardinal Frings (1945–1965), Julius Cardinal Döpfner (1965–1976), Joseph Cardinal Höffner (1976–1987) and Karl Cardinal Lehmann (1987–2008).

Merger with the Berlin Bishops' Conference

In the course of German reunification , the Berlin Bishops 'Conference joined the German Bishops' Conference in 1990. From 1987 to 2008, the Bishop of Mainz, Karl Cardinal Lehmann, chaired the German Bishops' Conference. He resigned on January 15, 2008 for health reasons. On February 12, 2008, the bishops elected the Archbishop of Freiburg, Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the German Bishops' Conference in the spring general assembly.

Abuse scandals

Against the background of cases of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, the German Bishops' Conference concluded an agreement in June 2011 with the Criminological Institute of Lower Saxony on a comprehensive criminological study on abuse in the Catholic Church in Germany . On January 8, 2013 it was announced that the German Bishops' Conference had terminated the contract with the institute due to a loss of confidence. On September 25, 2018, the German Bishops 'Conference published the so-called MHG study with the title Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests, Deacons and Male Religious Members in the area of ​​the German Bishops' Conference , which was developed by a consortium of various institutions.


Since May 2019 in Germany in the so-called church strike - also known as Aktion Maria 2.0 - there have been numerous initiatives by women active in church service who (demand) general “ equality between men and women in the Catholic Church”. The three initiators of the Lauchring church strike gave the chairman of the bishops' conference around 5,000 signatures.


Fulda Bishops' Conference
German Bishops' Conference


  • Josef Homeyer : The German Bishops' Conference. In: Günter Gorschenek (Ed.): Catholics and their Church in the Federal Republic of Germany. Olzog, Munich et al. 1976, ISBN 3-7892-7105-5 , pp. 74-88 ( History and State 200/202).
  • Erwin Iserloh : History of the German Bishops' Conference. In: Wilhelm Mogge (Ed.): A "Cologne event" in 1977. Sermons and speeches at the birthday celebrations for Cardinals Joseph Höffner and Josef Frings on December 26, 1976 and January 23, 1977. Society for Book Printing, Neuss 1977 , ISBN 3-88094-200-5 , pp. 31-50.
  • Rudolf Lill : The first German bishops' conferences. Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) et al. 1964.
  • Hubert Müller , Hermann Pottmeyer (ed.): The Bishops' Conference. Theological and legal status. Patmos-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1989, ISBN 3-491-77774-7 .

Broadcast reports

See also

Web links

Commons : German Bishops' Conference  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ DBK: General Assembly. In: DBK website. Retrieved May 26, 2019 .
  2. Wolfgang Weiss : The Catholic Church in the 19th Century. In: Ulrich Wagner (Hrsg.): History of the city of Würzburg. 4 volumes, Volume I-III / 2, Theiss, Stuttgart 2001-2007; III / 1–2: From the transition to Bavaria to the 21st century. 2007, ISBN 978-3-8062-1478-9 , pp. 430-449 and 1303, here: p. 437.
  3. ^ A b c Manfred Kuhl: History of the German Bishops' Conference. German Bishops' Conference, accessed on September 26, 2019 .
  4. ^ Decree CHRIST DOMINUS on the pastoral duty of the bishops . Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  5. Codex of Canon Law . Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  6. ^ A b c d e Karl Cardinal Lehmann : From the service to the whole. (PDF; 161.56 kB) Annual report. German Bishops' Conference, February 14, 2008, accessed on September 26, 2019 .
  7. ^ The Association of Dioceses of Germany (VDD). German Bishops' Conference, accessed on September 26, 2019 .
  8. Brigitte Busold: From Shepherd and control men - Bishops' Conference in Fulda . In: Susanne Bohl and others (ed.): Fulda. 50 treasures and specialties . Michael Imhof Verlag, Petersberg 2016, ISBN 978-3-7319-0425-0 , pp. 193–195, here p. 194.
  9. The Permanent Council. German Bishops' Conference, accessed on September 26, 2019 .
  11. The new one comes from Limburg. Bishop Bätzing from Limburg new DBK chairman , March 3, 2020.
  12. "I'm not disappearing, don't worry"
  13. Press release from February 11, 2020
  14. Episcopal Commissions. German Bishops' Conference, accessed on September 26, 2019 .
  15. The team of the clearing house media competence. Clearinghouse media competence of the German Bishops' Conference at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, accessed on September 26, 2019 .
  16. Christoph Arens: When Germany's bishops condemned the Nazi murders. In: , September 12, 2018 online
  17. Deschner, Karlheinz: The rooster crowed again . Econ Verlag, Düsseldorf / Vienna 1980, ISBN 3-430-12064-0 , p. 899 .
  18. Christoph Arens: When Germany's bishops condemned the Nazi murders. In: , September 12, 2018 online
  19. Christoph Arens: A historical confession of guilt. In: , 23 August 2015 online .
  20. Joachim Heinz: "A confession of guilt". Bishops publish declaration on World War II., April 29, 2020 online
  21. German Bishops in World War I , April 29, 2020, pp. 14 and 16.
  22. ^ Carsten Dippel: Correspondence between Polish and German Catholic bishops. In: , November 18, 2015. [1]
  23. ^ OME-Lexikon: Correspondence between the Polish and German bishops , accessed on May 1, 2020 [2]
  24. ^ Karl Cardinal Lehmann announces resignation as chairman of the German Bishops' Conference on February 18th. German Bishops' Conference, January 15, 2008, accessed on September 26, 2019 .
  25. ^ Archbishop Robert Zollitsch new chairman of the German Bishops' Conference. German Bishops' Conference, February 12, 2008, accessed on September 26, 2019 .
  26. Setback for solving the abuse scandal in the church. In: The world . January 9, 2013, accessed September 26, 2019 .
  27. Harald Dreßing, Hans Joachim Salize, Dieter Dölling, Dieter Hermann , Andreas Kruse, Eric Schmitt, Britta Bannenberg, Andreas Hoell, Elke Voß, Alexandra Collong, Barbara Horten, Jörg Hinner: Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the area of ​​the German Bishops' Conference. (pdf; 4MB) September 24, 2018, accessed September 25, 2018 .
  28. Juliane Schlichter: Lauchringer church strike: Cardinal Marx accepts signatures , in: Südkurier, 25 September 2019.

Coordinates: 50 ° 43 ′ 24.2 "  N , 7 ° 6 ′ 34.6"  E