German Caritas Association

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German Caritas Association
legal form registered association
founding November 9, 1897 in Cologne
founder Lorenz Werthmann
Seat Freiburg in Breisgau
precursor Charitas Association for Catholic Germany
Action space worldwide
people Peter Neher (President),
Hans Jörg Millies (General Secretary)
sales 182,888,000 euros (2018)
Employees 464 (2018)
around 660,000 in association (2016)
Volunteers around 500,000 (2017)

The German Caritas Association is the umbrella organization of organized Caritas ( Latin for charity , high esteem ) and the charity of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany. It is in the legal form of a registered association (eV) and central association of over 900 individual organizational units - most of them as independently registered associations. It is part of the league of the so-called leading associations of voluntary welfare in Germany. The leading associations work together in the Federal Working Group for Independent Welfare Care .

As an association of around 6,200 legally independent sponsors with around 693,000 employees, the association is considered the largest private employer in Germany. In addition, around 500,000 volunteers are involved in Caritas facilities. The equivalent of the Protestant Church is Diakonie Deutschland .


Postage stamp for the 100th birthday of the German Caritas Association in 1997

Prelate Lorenz Werthmann founded the Charitas Association for Catholic Germany on November 9, 1897 in Cologne ; the seat of the association is today in Freiburg im Breisgau . Other national Caritas organizations soon emerged in Switzerland (1901) , Austria (1903) and the USA (Catholic Charities, 1910). In 1916, the German Bishops' Conference recognized the Caritas Association as the amalgamation of the diocesan Caritas associations into a uniform organization. In 1922 all German dioceses had their own diocesan Caritas association.

Caritas under National Socialism

While the Caritas headquarters and associations initially behaved in a distant and wait-and-see manner in the first few weeks after the so-called seizure of power on January 30, 1933 , Caritas and the German bishops gave up this position after the government declaration by Chancellor Hitler on March 23, 1933. From then on, Caritas welcomed the “national uprising” and placed its hopes in the fascist government. Internally and publicly, representatives of Caritas emphasized the similarities with National Socialism: overcoming the class struggle and creating a (Christian) national community, the struggle against liberalism, socialism, communism, Bolshevism, the struggle against the ungodly movement, immorality and indulgence. The President of the German Caritas Association, Benedikt Kreuz , identified three goals of National Socialism that are very welcome from the Caritas point of view: the new state wants to withdraw as a welfare state, which brings free charity back to the fore, he emphasizes self-help and turns against the constant demands on the state and social security and, finally, he exercises vital concern for the genetically healthy family structure and for the large family.

With the conclusion of the Reich Concordat (RK) between the Holy See and the German Reich in July 1933, the Caritas Association received a state guarantee (Art. 31 RK), although the work of the Caritas Association was sometimes politically and legally restricted by the new rulers. However, the Secretary General of the German Caritas Association, Kuno Joerger, praised the Concordat as a “significant milestone in the history of Christianity in the German people”, and the official letter of thanks from the German Caritas Association to Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler said: “We congratulate you with sincere thanks to God the imperial government to the successful conclusion of the concordat and vow at all times the most faithful fulfillment of duties in the service of the needy of our beloved people. "

After the fate of the Catholic Church and the German Caritas Association in the "year of the national revolution" had worked out much more favorably than feared, Caritas declared itself ready to adopt a loyal attitude towards the new state and to cooperate benevolently with the National Socialist Welfare Association. Caritas entered into a conflict with the new rulers only occasionally and in order to safeguard their special interests. In an interview on March 9, 2018, Association President Peter Neher warned that they had to “deal with the injustice that happened at the time” and referred to the commitment of individual persecuted Christian women. He did not address the attitude of his predecessor and the association in the years 1933–1945; An official statement on the association policy of the German Caritas Association in the time of National Socialism has not yet been made (as of August 2020).

Caritas in the Federal Republic until 1990

In the post-war period , the Caritas Association was mainly active in the distribution of foreign donations to the German population, in caring for refugees and in reuniting families that were torn apart.

In the 1960s, in addition to working with disadvantaged people in West Germany, international aid was built up, for example in the event of natural disasters or wars.

In 1982 the German Caritas Association (DCV) in the Federal Republic of Germany included 22 diocesan Caritas associations, 260 charitable cooperatives (men's and women's orders with social tasks) and 36 professional associations (including Malteser Aid Service , Raphaelswerk , Vinzenz-Verein, Bahnhofsmission , IN VIA Katholische Girls' social work German Association).

By 1990, Caritas had a total of 25,860 facilities, including 950 hospitals, 1,410 old people's homes and 1,200 youth homes , day care centers and aid stations. The association had 263,000 full-time employees.

Caritas in the GDR

Under the protection of the bishops , Caritas of the GDR escaped dissolution. Caritas was incorporated into the structures of the dioceses , which established a very close relationship with the local parishes. The local work of Caritas was organized with the formation of Caritas secretariats.

The state monopoly in education and welfare made work in these areas an ordeal. Only a few children lived in Catholic homes, as their admission to denominational institutions had increasingly been banned. It was not possible to establish new kindergartens . However, the existing kindergartens were allowed to continue to operate. In the years of the GDR they made an indispensable contribution to the Christian upbringing of children. One focus in these years was the creation of facilities for the mentally handicapped and the development of services for the physically and sensually handicapped .

After the wall was built in 1961, charitable life had to be redesigned in the seclusion of borders. During this time, the creation of own church training courses for church educators, welfare workers , welfare workers ( social workers ) or youth leaders (social pedagogues) in Leisnig , Karl-Marx-Stadt , Magdeburg and Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg were of great importance . Hundreds of young people took advantage of these opportunities despite the lack of state recognition. Only training to become a nurse was recognized by the state. Caritas tried to meet the growing demand for places in old people's homes with brisk construction activity during these years.

After reunification

After the reunification of the two German states , the existing Caritas associations in the GDR were re-established or re-established in 1990 as associations under civil law that committed themselves to the goals of the German Caritas Association. In 1993, the Central Council of the German Caritas Association decided on a “model of the German Caritas Association” for the first time; After a long reform process, the Representative Assembly adopted new statutes in October 2003.

President of the German Caritas Association V. has been Peter Neher since 2003 . Before his election, the priest and theologian from the Allgäu was Caritas director in the diocese of Augsburg . Here he reformed the structure of the diocesan association and the 17 district associations.


Headquarters building in Freiburg

The German Caritas Association (DCV) based in Freiburg i. Brsg. is the umbrella organization of the 27 diocesan Caritas associations and the recognized central professional associations. He is represented by the President, who is elected by the Assembly of Delegates for a period of six years. The management is carried out by a three to five-person full-time executive board chaired by the president. The diocesan Caritas associations are organized on a decentralized basis, i. H. legally independent. They are subject to the diocesan structure within the church. This includes 636 local, district and district Caritas associations as well as 262 charitable religious orders .

The Caritas Association has a federal structure. The German Caritas Association, the State Caritas Associations and the Diocesan Caritas Associations as well as the District Caritas Associations are each independent legal entities as umbrella organizations , the members of which are then the district and city associations as well as the professional associations. These local associations take different legal forms, for example e. V. (registered associations) or gGmbH (non-profit companies with limited liability), and in some cases they can have considerable economic influence ( e.g. Caritas Trägergesellschaft Trier ).

Caritas International (Ci) is part of the DCV as an international aid organization of the German Caritas, not to be confused with Caritas Internationalis , the confederation of worldwide Caritas organizations.

The three-person board consists of: the president Peter Neher (theologian), the general secretary, finance and personnel director Hans Jörg Millies and Eva Maria Welskop-Deffaa as board member for social and specialist policy .


Along with liturgy and proclamation, Caritas sees itself as an essential expression of the Church in the world. The association organizes the social work of the Catholic Church for people on a national level, regardless of ideology and religion , but also appears as a social aid organization active in many countries .

The goals of the association are derived from the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. In its mission statement from 1997, the German Caritas Association defines the protection of human dignity , solidarity in a pluralistic world and the obligation to do so across borders as goals for its work . With regard to its tasks, the Caritas Association is committed to helping people in need and as a lawyer and partner for the disadvantaged. He would like to help shape social and societal politics and contribute to the qualification of social work. In addition to the mission statement, there are also other goals pursued by the Caritas Association, and more precise specifications as to the direction in which social policy should be shaped. The basic Christian understanding of the association distinguishes it from a state or a private employer both in the economic area, where profit maximization is less in the foreground (even if losses are also not desired), and in the labor law area, which concerns the requirements for conscientious decisions of the employees .

Critics of this extension of the employer's interests to the private life of employees criticize the fact that dismissals for such reasons or a ban on trade union organization contradict general labor law, the Basic Law and the model of the Caritas Association, which represents the protection of human dignity and solidarity in a pluralistic world . Instead of alleviating misery according to the guiding principle, dismissals, for example after entering into a homosexual civil partnership , would create exclusion and new hardship.

public relation

Caritas regularly organizes campaigns and initiatives, especially on socio-political issues. The following campaigns have been carried out so far:

  • 2010: Zero poverty - Together against poverty;
  • 2011: No one is perfect;
  • 2012: Poverty makes you sick;
  • 2013: We can only create family together;
  • 2014: World Climate Summit: Far away is closer than you think;
  • 2015: City - Country - Future: Fill your country with life;
  • 2016: Tackle and participate - Make yourself strong for intergenerational justice;
  • 2017: Together we are home;
  • 2018: Affordable housing: everyone needs a home;
  • 2019: Social needs digital;
  • 2020: Be good, human!
Unconventional advertising for Caritas

"Caritas international", the emergency and disaster relief organization of the German Caritas Association, sends out donation letters, advertises with supplements in newspapers and magazines and places print and online advertisements. Caritas and its subsidiaries also advertise themselves through partnerships with private companies. For example, the placement of the Caritas logo shown on the photo on the right on a racing car is the result of such a partnership.

Caritas as an employer

The legally independent bodies of the German Caritas Association employ around 693,000 full-time employees nationwide with an equivalent of around 466,000 full-time positions. Of the 434,404 part-time employees, 10.8 percent are marginally employed. The proportion of women is 81.9 percent. In addition, there are around half a million volunteers and volunteers. The Caritas associations are among the largest employers in many regions and federal states. The German Caritas Association is the largest welfare association in Germany.

The employees are hired and remunerated according to their own collective bargaining system, the guidelines for employment contracts in the institutions of the German Caritas Association, which is based on the collective bargaining system for the public service ( BAT ) and the collective bargaining agreement for the public service (TVöD).

As part of the Roman Catholic Church, the association is subject to the churches' right to self-determination , which is already granted by Article 138 of the Weimar Constitution (today in conjunction with Article 140 of the Basic Law). In addition to the status of companies with a tendency , this entails some special features in labor law for employees. Since they are counted as part of the ecclesiastical community of service, this applies even if they only have auxiliary functions without direct preaching character.

Religious communities were granted generous exceptions to the EU directives that prohibit discrimination in employment and occupation ( 2000/78 / EC ). Instead of EU law, the basic order of church service is applied.

These deviations from the otherwise applicable labor law standards have various consequences:

  • Neither union nor the right to strike are allowed.
  • Instead, the interests of the employees are perceived or represented by freely elected employee representatives.
  • Tariff changes are negotiated by a commission with equal representation.
  • The Works Constitution Act does not apply; Instead, an MAVO (Employee Representation Code) issued by the respective local bishop applies, which is modeled on the Employee Representation Act.
  • In certain functions, membership of the Roman Catholic, or at least one other Christian church, is required. Non-denominational or members of certain religious communities ( e.g. New Apostolic Church ) must at least respect the Christian intention of the sponsor.
  • Requirements are placed on the personal way of life of the employees, who should be Christian in the Roman Catholic sense. Obvious deviations from these ideas can lead to termination by the employer. Remarrying after divorce or entering into a homosexual civil partnership at the registry office was a reason for termination under labor law until the end of July 2015. With the reform of the Catholic Church Labor Law , remarried or partnered employees will no longer be dismissed.
  • Disputes about the validity and interpretation of the respective employment contract are brought before the state labor courts. Collective legal disputes (for example about church co-determination - MAVO) are decided by the church's own labor courts; Collective legal dispute is settled by church diocesan unification bodies.


Percentage of the 2017 financing of the Bonn Caritas Association

The exact financial situation of each individual service is very different. Caritas does not publish the figures in aggregated form , but only subdivided them according to service.

In general, today's financing is only to a very small extent dependent on donations, the largest part is raised by the state through performance fees. In the dominant services of health care, child / youth welfare and care for the elderly, donations play little or no role. The Bavarian districts or the state welfare associations of Baden-Württemberg bear part of the costs of the addiction counseling centers, and the social insurances such as health and long-term care insurance those of the social stations. In some cases, such as the Social Psychiatric Services (SPDi) in Bavaria, where the districts have cut funds and the health insurance companies have completely withdrawn from funding, the church has to pay for deficits of 20 to 30 percent. Other services, such as the pregnancy counseling centers in some federal states, or social counseling, are completely financed by Caritas or indirectly by the Roman Catholic Church. These own resources are, resources from the church tax , from donations , Caritas collections, asset management and membership fees.

The respective association acts as an independent provider , for example for youth , disabled or elderly care . Austerity measures in public funds as well as a decrease in church tax revenue have led to a considerable narrowing of the financial leeway in the work of Caritas in many places and made consolidation measures necessary. Most facilities work according to business principles, receive business advice and strive to cover costs within the framework of the criteria described above. Compared to other aid organizations, the proportion of administrative costs is relatively low.

The share of church money in the financing of all activities of Caritas and Diakonie is around two percent. The two churches financed a total of around EUR 830 million of the around 37 billion euros in costs for the institutions sponsored by Caritas and Diakonie in 2003.

Caritas now publishes information on its financing itself.


The association includes health care facilities , child and youth welfare , care for the elderly, help for addicts, social psychiatric counseling services, support for the disabled and many other social institutions. With 24,391 facilities and over a million places / beds, it is the largest welfare association in terms of size among the welfare associations in Germany, followed by the Diakonisches Werk ( Protestant Church ), the German Red Cross , the AWO - Arbeiterwohlfahrt ( SPD- related organization), the Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband and others.

Almost every district, regional or district association - belonging to the respective diocesan associations - maintains, in addition to the more specialized services and institutions, a so-called basic service of general social counseling , under an alternative name also general social counseling (ASB), general social service - not to be confused with the services of the same name (ASD) of the youth welfare offices - also known as general life counseling, which, in addition to its own counseling and support profile for everyone, i.e. people with a wide variety of questions or in difficult life situations, also serves as a first point of contact, information or so-called clearing point Available.

In structurally weak areas or those in a diaspora situation , Caritas also works with other providers, preferably with the Protestant Diakonie, and forms services under joint Christian sponsorship.

Examples of fields of work are:

  • General social counseling services (e.g. general social counseling as a basic counseling service of Caritas)
  • Aid for the elderly (e.g. nursing homes, meeting places). The Caritas carrier company Trier from 1987 [ctt e. V.] as a health concern under the umbrella of the parent company
  • Work and unemployment (e.g. employing companies, youth work aid)
  • Basic and advanced training of employees, supraregional through the Caritas academies, through regional Caritas academies and job-specific offers
  • Accompanying and promoting young people in the Federal Voluntary Service and Voluntary Social Year
  • Aid for the disabled (e.g. advice centers, OBA - open work with disabled people, schools, training and integration, housing offers, workshops for disabled people (WfbM), accompanied outpatient living, etc.)
  • CARIsatt stores or food banks - together with food bank (organization) - (food distribution and collection points for the needy)
  • Caritas second-hand shops ("Carla")
  • Family help (for example mother-child cures, also father-child cures, together with the mothers' convalescence center , women's shelters, advice centers for marriage, family and life issues and pregnancy conflicts)
  • Community-oriented social work (Caritas of the community - services for / with the Catholic parishes )
  • Community work in social hot spots
  • Help in particular social difficulties (for example addiction counseling , social psychiatric services , homeless help , care for prisoners, station missions, counseling for prostitutes (midnight mission))
  • Health (e.g. child recreation), hospitals, hospice work
  • Youth welfare ( e.g. parenting advice centers , home education, kindergartens, day-care centers, child and youth social work)
  • Closets and purses, furniture and household goods storage
  • Nursing (Caritas social stations, care courses for relatives)
  • Migration (e.g. advice for migrants - initial migration advice, asylum seekers , refugees , repatriates , emigrants )
  • Psychiatry (SpDi - Social Psychiatric Services )
  • Telephone pastoral care (mostly ecumenical together with the Diakonisches Werk)

Regional consolidated balance sheets

  • On January 24, 2018, Caritas -einrichtungen gGmbH, based in Würzburg, published the first consolidated financial statements for the 2016 financial year for the diocese of Würzburg with a profit after taxes of EUR 854,064.41 in the Federal Gazette. The group consists of seven subsidiaries distributed in the administrative region of Lower Franconia and employs more than 1200 people in the areas of care, housekeeping and technical services, administration, building cleaning, laundry as well as gardening and landscaping. The wholly-owned subsidiary Caritas Personal Service GmbH had to file for bankruptcy in 2015 due to a lack of capital for personnel costs for the group administration and loss of wages for three employees. The supervisory board consists of two people, who are appointed by the Würzburg cathedral chapter: 1. Chairman Clemens Bieber and financial director Albrecht Siedler.
  • Caritas Trägergesellschaft Saarbrücken mbH (cts), based in Saarbrücken, published consolidated financial statements on February 14, 2018 with an annual profit after tax of 9,716,580.22 euros for the 2016 financial year. The area of ​​activity includes around 4900 employees providing services in the areas of health care and care for the elderly, cleaning, laundry, kitchen, cafeteria, housekeeping, building services, pick-up and delivery service as well as tasks in other service areas of the cts group.

Pregnancy conflict counseling

Former counseling centers

Until 1999, pregnancy conflict counseling centers of the Caritas associations carried out counseling in accordance with Section 219 of the German Criminal Code (StGB) . In order to meet the legal requirements of these open-ended consultations, they also issued women a certificate that they had visited the counseling center, which could be used for a punishable termination of pregnancy . Pope John Paul II banned this practice, citing his jurisdiction primacy, to the Catholic associations Caritas and Social Service of Catholic Women , because he assessed it as an aid to an abortion that was reprehensible in the Catholic-Christian sense. The decision was very controversial in Germany, both socially and within the church.

Opponents of the order, which more or less openly included some members of the German Bishops' Conference , complained that the Catholic Church closes the door to women in the pregnancy conflict. They could no longer visit Catholic counseling centers if they were considering an abortion as an option or, under certain circumstances, would have to go to another counseling center after a Catholic counseling in order to obtain the necessary certificate. Since the state funding of the counseling centers according to § 219 StGB also depended on the acceptance of the legal framework, numerous Catholic conflict counseling centers had to close as a result.

Today's advice centers

Catholic layman then founded various associations (such as Donum vitae or the image of women ) and built partly on with former Caritas and SKF employees, its own network of conflict counseling centers. The Vatican has sharply condemned the work of this organization, which is independent of the official church, on several occasions for circumventing the papal prohibition that church institutions had to adhere to.

Professional associations of the German Caritas Association

17 professional associations are affiliated with the German Caritas Association:

Professional associations at federal level

Professional associations


In 1962, the graphic artist Bert Jäger designed the Caritas “Flame Cross”, a cross from which stylized flames strike in four directions. The vertical line of the cross is supposed to symbolize the connection between God and people, the horizontal line the "responsibility of people to one another and for each other", the flames stand for warmth, support and help, which should make Caritas tangible, according to the presentation at the Caritas Association of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising e. V.


  • Wolfgang Becker-Freyseng: Workplace Caritas - Survival manual for Caritas employees , Lambertus-Verlag, Freiburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-7841-1682-2 .
  • Carsten Frerk : Caritas and Diakonie in Germany . Alibri Verlag , Aschaffenburg 2005, ISBN 3-86569-000-9 .
  • Karl Gabriel : Caritas and the welfare state under pressure to change. Analysis and Perspectives. Diakonik series, Volume 1. Münster 2006.
  • Christian Heidrich : Carlo Bayer. A Roman from Silesia and a pioneer of Caritas Internationalis. Jan Thorbecke Verlag, Sigmaringen 1992, ISBN 3-7995-6456-X .
  • Manfred Hermanns : Problem-solving perspectives in the field of tension between organization and economy: Caritas in the 20s and 30s with Heinrich Weber (1888–1946). In: Heinrich Pompey (Ed.): Caritas in the field of tension between economic efficiency and humanity (= studies on theology and practice of Caritas and social pastoral. Vol. 9). Echter, Würzburg 1997, ISBN 3-429-01949-4 , pp. 311-326.
  • Catherine Maurer: Le modèle allemand de la charité. La Caritas de Guillaume II à Hitler . Strasbourg 1999, ISBN 2-86820-097-4 .
  • Catherine Maurer: Caritas. Un siècle de charité organized en Alsace. La Fédération de Charité-Caritas d'Alsace 1903-2003. Strasbourg 2003, ISBN 2-7468-1167-7 .
  • Friedhelm Schwarz: Church business empire - the most powerful corporation in Germany. Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt / Main, New York 2005, ISBN 3-593-37444-7 . Review in the WELT on August 18, 2005

Web links

Commons : Deutscher Caritasverband  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Structure and management. In: Retrieved November 13, 2019 .
  2. Transparent civil society initiative. In: Retrieved November 13, 2019 .
  3. How many volunteers are there in Caritas? In: Retrieved November 13, 2019 .
  4. ^ German Caritas Association e. V .: Caritas in Germany and worldwide - Who we are and what we do. June 5, 2019, accessed June 7, 2019 .
  5. a b Millions of help, accessed on August 5, 2020.
  6. Rainer Hank: The secret business of the benefactors. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . June 4, 2012, accessed December 3, 2014 .
  7. Peter Hammerschmidt: The welfare associations in the Nazi state . 1999, ISBN 978-3-8100-2128-1 , p. 143.
  8. Peter Hammerschmidt: The welfare associations in the Nazi state , p. 143 mN.
  9. ^ Peter Hammerschmidt: The welfare associations in the Nazi state , p. 143 mwN.
  10. ^ Minutes of the central council meeting of the German Caritas Association on June 6, 1933 (ADC, 081 / 01-16)
  11. Peter Hammerschmidt: The welfare associations in the Nazi state , p. 143.
  12. ^ Letter from the German Caritas Association to Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler from July 1933 (ADC, 740.5 fasc. 2).
  13. a b c Peter Hammerschmidt: The welfare associations in the Nazi state , p. 144.
  14. See .
  15. ^ Caritas Association for the Diocese of Dresden-Meißen e. V. - Historical ( Memento from October 17, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  16. ^ Articles of Association
  17. Imprint
  18. Caritas campaigns and initiatives ., 2020
  19. How Caritas Germany solicits donations .
  20. AVR = guidelines for employment contracts in the institutions of the German Caritas Association
  21. ^ Reinhard Richardi : Labor law in the church. Beck, Munich 2003 4 , ISBN 3-406-46177-8
  22. Labor Law Commission
  23. ^ Kirche, Modern labor law does not apply in all dioceses
  24. Holzkirchen, lesbian, partnered after-school care worker is allowed to keep her job
  25. hires a lesbian partnered day care manager again
  26. This is how Caritas finances itself. Retrieved April 26, 2017 .
  27. ^ Research group Weltanschauungen in Germany (fowid): "Church quota" at Caritas und Diakonie , October 17, 2005, accessed on November 25, 2016
  28. Finances
  32. Plutonia Plarre: Children's hospice service manager on death: “Compassion, but not compassion” . In: The daily newspaper: taz . October 26, 2019, ISSN  0931-9085 ( [accessed June 3, 2020]).
  35. List of the professional associations of the German Caritasverband e. V.
  37. The symbol of the Caritas Association. A cross that strikes flames. (No longer available online.), archived from the original on November 6, 2016 ; accessed on June 3, 2020 .

Coordinates: 48 ° 0 ′ 15 ″  N , 7 ° 51 ′ 24 ″  E