German Association of the Holy Land

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Dormition Abbey as seen from Jerusalem's old city wall
South facade of the Paulus House

The German Association of the Holy Land ( DVHL ) is a Roman Catholic organization whose goals are to strengthen relationships between Christians in Germany and in the Holy Land . The association became a legal person by government decree of March 11, 1895. Today the association under the old law is under the protection of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is based in Cologne .


The foundation took place on July 30, 1895 during the general assembly of the association. This was constituted by merging the Association of the Holy Grave, founded in 1855 on the initiative of the Cologne Cathedral Capitular Gottfried Strauss, and the Palestine Association of Catholics in Germany , founded in 1885 .

In the wake of the First World War and after the outbreak of the Second World War , the association's possessions were administered by the British mandate for several years.

In 1854 two Catholics from the Archdiocese of Cologne traveled to the Holy Land. During their pilgrimage they got to know the difficult situation of the Catholic Christians in Palestine and the sad state of the holy places. When they returned to Cologne in 1855, they suggested founding the Society of the Holy Grave. The association made it its business to support the Catholic Church and its institutions in the Holy Land.

The Palestine Association of Catholics in Germany joined him in 1885. This association set itself the goal of "strengthening the German Catholic character on the sacred soil of Palestine". In 1895 the two associations merged to form the German Association of the Holy Land. The target group had meanwhile expanded to include all oppressed Christians in the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Abdülhamid II : following the resolutions of the Fulda Bishops' Conference , fundraising for the victims of the Armenian massacre was carried out in 1896 .

The combination of national enthusiasm and religious mission awareness allowed the association in the German Empire to grow to 30,000 members. In competition with other European nations and denominations, the association erected large, magnificent buildings in Jerusalem . A stately St. Mary's Church with a monastery was built on a plot of land donated by Kaiser Wilhelm II on Mount Zion . A massive hospice building was started for the pilgrimages with hundreds of participants.

In Jerusalem the association ran a German school for European and Arab girls. The association's original plan to settle German Catholics in agricultural colonies in Palestine failed, however, as no settlers could be found. Hospices for pilgrims were built on the properties in Emmaus and Tabgha on the Sea of ​​Galilee , which were bought for this purpose , and agriculture was carried out with the help of local Bedouins. The two world wars and their aftermath made the work of the association in Palestine, which came under British administration in 1917, considerably more difficult.

However, the association managed to largely preserve its possessions, which are now in the State of Israel and in the Palestinian territories. Today the German Association of the Holy Land sees itself as an aid organization for Christians in the Middle East. He wants to promote understanding and reconciliation between religions and support people in need. In the partly historic buildings, the association performs social and pastoral tasks in cooperation with religious orders. With its pilgrimages and the members' magazine Das Heilige Land , the association is a bridge to the Holy Land for Catholics in Germany today, as it was 160 years ago.


The German Association of the Holy Land sees its tasks primarily in the support of Christians in the Holy Land and in making pilgrimages possible for German-speaking Christians in the Holy Land. The association maintains some pilgrims' hospices and schools or supports them financially. The association continues to strive for Christian-Jewish dialogue.

The association also offers volunteer services on site.


President of the German Association of the Holy Land is the respective Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cologne , currently Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki .

The association's board of directors conducts the association's business in coordination with the administrative board. An advisory board is set up to support them. The work in the Holy Land is coordinated by the general secretariat of the association based in Cologne . The German association and its interests are represented in the dioceses by a diocesan chairman appointed by the respective local bishop.

General Secretaries

Properties owned by the association

  • Dormition Abbey (also Dormition Beatae Mariae Virginis Abbey ), Jerusalem. The Benedictine Abbey on Mount Zionsberg , in need of renovation,is owned and maintained by the German Association of the Holy Land. This also includes the Dormition Church with its striking tower, which towers over the old city of Jerusalem from afar. In addition, the Beit Josef guest house, which houses the Jerusalem theological academic year, also belongs to the abbey.
  • Paul's House , Jerusalem. The Paulus House in front of the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem is the pilgrim guest house of the association in Jerusalem.
  • Schmidt School , Jerusalem. The Schmidt School for girls, founded in the second half of the 19th century, is located next to the Paulus House. This prestigious school is open to all girls regardless of religion. The association pays school fees for students in need.
  • Beit Emmaus , El Qubeibeh , near Jerusalem. Here the association has a home for the elderly and the disabled.
  • Tabgha Priory , Sea of ​​Galilee. The famous Bread Multiplication Church , with its wonderful mosaics, the Benedictine monastery, a meeting place for the disabled and young people belong to the German Association and are financially supported by it.
  • Tabgha pilgrim house , Sea of ​​Galilee. Here the German Association hascreated its new pilgrims' hospice on the basis of the old hospice that had longhousedthe Israeli youth hostel Karei Deshe .


  • Stephan Mock, Michael Schäbitz: The Holy Land as an order, The German Association of the Holy Land 1855-2005. Cologne 2005, (not available in bookshops, but only from the general secretariat of the association).
  • Barbara Vosberg: German Catholics and the Holy Land as reflected in the publications of the German Association of the Holy Land and the German Lieutenancy of the Knightly Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem 1855-1970 . Aschendorff Verlag, Münster 2019, ISBN 978-3-402-13414-6 .

Video clips

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Statute of the German Association of the Holy Land. ( Memento from September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  2. ^ Friedrich Heyer: 2000 years of church history of the Holy Land: martyrs, monks, church fathers, crusaders, patriarchs, excavators and pilgrims , LIT Verlag Münster 2000, p. 306
  3. ^ Report of the Rheinischer Merkur of September 28, 1896. In: Appendix rallies by Johannes Lepsius : Armenia and Europe. An indictment , Verlag der Akademischen Buchhandlung W. Faber & Co, Berlin 1897. online on Wikisource (accessed on February 21, 2016)