Josef Frings

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Joseph Cardinal Frings (1959)
Frings' signature

Josef Cardinal Frings (later often also Joseph Frings ; * February 6, 1887 in Neuss , † December 17, 1978 in Cologne ) was a German Catholic clergyman and Archbishop of Cologne .


Josef Richard Frings was born in Neuss in 1887 as the second of eight children to the weaving mill manufacturer Heinrich Frings and his wife Maria, née Sels. He passed his Abitur in 1905 at the Royal High School (today Quirinus High School ) in Neuss and studied Catholic theology in Munich , Innsbruck , Freiburg im Breisgau and Bonn . In Freiburg he became active in the KV with the Catholic student association Bavaria . In Bonn he belonged to the St. VkTh theological association. Rhenofrankonia Bonn.

His brother Alfons Frings was Lord Mayor of Neuss from 1946 to 1961, his older brother Heinrich Frings (1885-1946) was a judge and died in January 1946 in the Soviet occupation zone in special camp No. 1 Mühlberg .

Priestly work

Josef Frings received the sacrament of ordination to the priesthood on August 10, 1910 in Cologne through Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Müller . He initially worked as a chaplain in Cologne-Zollstock until 1913 . This was followed by a study visit to Rome until 1915. In Rome he lived in the priestly college of Santa Maria dell'Anima . In 1916 he received his doctorate in theology in Freiburg . From 1915 to 1922 he was pastor of the Catholic parish of St. Marien in Cologne-Fühlingen , from 1922 to 1924 head of an orphanage in Neuss and from 1924 to 1937 pastor of St. Joseph in Cologne-Braunsfeld . Then he was from 1937 to 1942 rain of the archbishop's seminary in Bensberg .

As a pastor in Braunsfeld, he came into contact with the then mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer , because Adenauer, without belonging to Frings' Braunsfeld parish, attended Sunday services in St. Joseph with his family. Pastor Frings had brought two of the family's younger children to first communion. In Adenauer's opinion, Frings had wrong ideas about raising children. Until the time when Adenauer was Chancellor and Frings Cardinal, the relationship between the two remained extremely cool.

Archbishop of Cologne

Cardinal coat of arms
Bad Honnef, Spießgasse 9, towards the end of the Second World War, the home of Joseph Frings

The office of Archbishop of Cologne, to which he was unexpectedly appointed on May 1, 1942, was held by Josef Frings from 1942 to 1969. The Apostolic Nuncio in Germany, Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo , was ordained bishop on June 21, 1942 in Cologne Cathedral . Co-consecrators were the Cologne auxiliary bishops Wilhelm Stockum and Joseph Hammels . His coat of arms was: Pro hominibus constitutus ( Latin : “Ordered for the people”). The National Socialist regime had forbidden the press in Germany to report on the ordination of the new Archbishop of Cologne; so the Cologne Catholics made do by posting private classified ads. The international press was represented at the consecration celebrations in Cologne Cathedral, so that outside of Germany there were reports about the consecration in some places. The persecution of Jews called Frings publicly as a "blatant injustice", his popularity saved him from reprisals. However, with the help of a number of informants , at least some of whom were clerics , he was kept under constant surveillance by the Gestapo .

After the war he campaigned for the reinstatement of former NSDAP members and supported the silent help , which helped war criminals to escape. Among other things, he campaigned for the war criminal Walter Sonntag, who was sentenced to death .

On February 18, 1946 he was together with Konrad Graf von Preysing and Clemens August Graf von Galen by Pope Pius XII. accepted into the college of cardinals . In his function as cardinal priest he was assigned the titular church of San Giovanni a Porta Latina .

From 1945 to 1965 he was chairman of the Fulda Bishops 'Conference, the predecessor institution of the German Bishops' Conference . In 1948 he was taken over by Pius XII. appointed High Protector for Refugees . In 1958 he was the initiator and co-founder of the Misereor aid organization . The aid organization's magazine is named after him: frings. The Adveniat aid organization also went back to his public suggestion in 1961. In his universal church initiatives, he proceeded self-confidently without first obtaining approval from the Roman Curia . In his address to the Fulda Bishops' Conference on the foundation of Misereor in 1958, he answered the question “What does Rome say about this?”: “But we cannot get Rome's blessing before every initiative. That means moving on with responsibility. "

On the initiative of Josef Frings, the Archdiocese of Cologne established a partnership with the Japanese Archdiocese of Tokyo in 1954 , one of the first diocesan sponsorships within the Roman Catholic Church . During a trip to Japan and Korea in May 1957 on the occasion of the inauguration of the law faculty of the Sophia University in Tokyo, which was financially supported by the Archdiocese of Cologne , he also met the Japanese Emperor Hirohito on May 13, 1957 .

Frings resigned his bishopric in February 1969 for reasons of age, as his eyesight deteriorated more and more. Joseph Höffner , the previous Bishop of Münster , was placed at his side as Coadjutor Archbishop as early as January . He succeeded him as Archbishop of Cologne on February 24, 1969. In 1977 Cardinal Frings was the longest serving cardinal priest and cardinal proto-priest . Frings died on December 17, 1978 at the age of 91. He was buried in the archbishop's crypt in Cologne Cathedral.

New Year's sermon 1946

Coal stealing in the Rhineland (winter 1946/47)

Frings entered the German language with the verb “fringsen” for “commit mouth robbery” . The term goes back to his New Year's Eve sermon held on December 31, 1946 in the Church of St. Engelbert in Cologne-Riehl , in which he stated with reference to the looting of coal trains and the poor supply situation:

"We live in times when, in times of need, the individual will also be allowed to take what he needs to maintain his life and health, if he cannot obtain it in any other way, through his work or by asking."

After that, in Cologne and later throughout Germany, the procurement of food and heating materials for acute personal needs by simply stealing, suppressing or embezzling them was called “fringsen” (spoken with a voiced “s”) (see also: Kohlenklau # Lasting popularity ). The next sentences of the sermon

“But I believe that in many cases it has gone way beyond that. And there is only one way: to return unjust goods immediately, otherwise there will be no forgiveness from God. "

were often not noticed. During the ceremonial renaming of the Düsseldorf South Bridge over the Rhine (see below), a benefit campaign was offered to “fringing backwards” by buying special briquettes for the benefit of those in need.

War Criminal Trials

When the Dachau trials , in connection with the Malmedy trial, were increasingly accused of “victorious justice” by the churches and other groups, the US military governor Lucius D. Clay thought a letter to the cardinal, chairman of the Fulda Bishops' Conference, was necessary, because Frings had also made a name for himself as an advocate for war criminals. In it, Clay defended the " War Crimes Program " and stressed that the war crimes tribunals were "set up in the hope that the world would recognize their contribution to peace and that they would serve as a deterrent for future attackers".

Second Vatican Council

Letter from Cardinal Frings to the Pope with a request for a decision on birth control

As a bishop, Cardinal Josef Frings was one of the participants in the Second Vatican Council and was a member of the ten-person council presidium. His speech on the rules of procedure, given freely in Latin at the opening session of the council (the first “General Congregation”), with which he called for a time to get to know the council fathers before the decision on the composition of the council commissions, prevented the council from being carried out after the Curia developed rules of procedure. His - largely by Joseph Ratzinger , the associated therewith Council theologians and future Pope Benedict XVI, wrote -. Critical discourse on the Holy Office under the direction of Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani had a significant impact, and ultimately led to the fundamental restructuring of the Authority Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith .

In a letter dated May 18, 1967, he asked Pope Paul VI. a post-conciliar authoritative decision on the question of birth control and thus gave an impetus or contribution to the encyclical Humanae vitae .


Joseph Frings (first from right) with Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (center) at the inauguration of the Gürzenich (1955)

During the deliberations on the Basic Law , Frings joined the CDU in November 1948 through a letter to Konrad Adenauer , but declared his resignation in May 1949. Assumptions that this was connected with the fact that the Basic Law did not take into account the church interests from Frings' point of view, he rejected and justified the step with the fact that the Reich Concordat forbade Catholic clergy from membership in political parties. With this step he signaled that the German Center Party can no longer consider itself a party of Catholics.


In 1952, Federal President Theodor Heuss awarded Frings the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany . On May 11, 1957, the Sophia University in Tokyo awarded him the title of honorary doctor of philosophy on the occasion of the inauguration of the church-sponsored law faculty of this university, which is financially supported by the Archdiocese of Cologne.

Memorial plaque for Josef Cardinal Frings at the parish church of Cologne-Fühlingen

Frings is the only Archbishop of Cologne to whom the city of Cologne has granted honorary citizenship. That happened in 1967, in the same year he was also made an honorary citizen of his hometown Neuss and in 1946 that of the town of Honnef (today Bad Honnef), where he had resided several times during the war years from 1941 to 1945.

Student associations

He became an honorary philistine of the K.St.V. Arminia Bonn and the K.St.V. Rhenania Innsbruck in the KV and on May 3, 1967 honorary member of the AV Rheinstein Cologne in the CV .

Streets, buildings, memorial and bridge

Sculpture by Josef Frings in Cologne, by Kurt Arentz, 1998

The part of the street in Cologne where today's Archbishop's House, the residence of the Archbishop of Cologne, is located, was renamed Kardinal-Frings-Strasse after him. The Archbishop's Cardinal Frings Gymnasium in Bonn - Beuel , the Cardinal Frings House Neuss meeting center and the Cardinal Frings House Caritas Senior Citizens Center in Cologne-Ehrenfeld are named after Cardinal Frings .

On the initiative of the Josef Cardinal Frings Society in 2005, the southern bridge between Düsseldorf and Neuss was renamed the Joseph Cardinal Frings Bridge in honor of the native Neusser . Frings monuments can be found in Cologne's old town on Laurenzplatz and in Neuss near the Quirinus Minster .


In 1969, Frings gave one of his bishop's staffs, which he received as a gift from Neuss parishioners on the occasion of his ordination and which the artist Hildegard Domizlaff had made, to his confidante and secretary Hubert Luthe on the occasion of his ordination as auxiliary bishop in Cologne . Since he bequeathed it to Cologne Cathedral in his will , it was handed over to Cologne in 2014 and is in the cathedral treasury just like the second, simpler and lighter gold-plated rod made of silver and ivory created by Domizlaff in 1964.

The historical archive of the Archdiocese of Cologne keeps the estate of Cardinal Frings.


The great popularity of the cardinal, who always speaks in the Rhenish dialect , was reflected in numerous anecdotes.

  • Together with the Bishop of Munster, Count von Galen , Frings traveled to Rome in the winter of 1946 to attend the cardinal elevation. The British military aircraft could not take off due to adverse weather, so British soldiers first drove them in their cars before continuing by train. After getting stuck in the mud of the bad roads several times, spending the night in the car and then canceling the planned train from Karlsruhe, Frings said in exasperation to the officer accompanying him: “General, I can live without being a cardinal. Please bring me back to Cologne. ”That made an impression, suddenly everything went better.
  • As the Pontifical Mass was hit in the open by a violent storm at a meeting organized by Monsignor Klaus mouth Catholic and broke up in confusion, Frings just said . "Sic transit gloria mundi" (. Lat for "So passes the glory of the world.") .
  • After a speech at the academy he was accused of having spoken quite differently (more liberally) before his episcopal ordination, and Frings replied: "If you ever become a bishop, you won't say everything you said before!"
  • Once asked about his poor eyesight, Frings is said to have replied in Kölsch : "Jot lure can be sore, ävver slack hüre, dat can be sore." .
  • In the run-up to the Second Vatican Council , Frings had given a lecture in Genoa with the title The Council on the Background of the Time Situation in contrast to the First Vatican Council . When Pope John XXIII. After having read the manuscript of the lecture, he had Frings summoned to an audience in the Vatican . Frings, who was not sure whether the Pope had liked his remarks, said in his humorous Cologne manner to his secretary Hubert Luthe , the later Bishop of Essen: whether et nit et last Mohl is. ”(“ Put the red cloak on me again, who knows if it will not be the last time. ”) The Pope, however, was enthusiastic about the statements of the Cologne cardinal and prepared him one warm welcome.

Josef Cardinal Frings Society

The Frings memorial in Neuss by Elmar Hillebrand (inaugurated in 2000)

In 1996, the “Josef Cardinal Frings Gesellschaft zu Neuss am Rhein e. V. “founded. It is non-profit and registered with the registry court. The aim of the society is to scientifically research the life and work of Cardinal Frings and to make them known to a broad public.

On August 12, 2000, the monument erected by the Cardinal Frings Society was consecrated by Elmar Hillebrand by Joachim Cardinal Meisner. On December 17th, 2008, six floor slabs were added, which graphically report on the most important stages in the life of Cardinal Frings. The bronze reliefs were created by the artist Michael Franke .

On September 4, 2015 the society published the book Der Rheinische Kardinal - Josef Frings: Pastor, Diplomat, Bridge Builder ; The author was Friedhelm Ruf .


  • The unity of the Messiah idea in the Gospels. A contribution to the theology of the New Testament. in: Katholik , born 1917, Kirchheim, Mainz 1917, DNB 570210046 (Theological dissertation University of Freiburg im Breisgau 1916, XII, 119 pages).
  • Principles of Catholic Social Work and Timely Inferences. Bachem, Cologne 1947, OCLC 952951505 .
  • Responsibility and shared responsibility in business. What does Catholic social teaching say about participation and participation? Bachem, Cologne 1949.
  • The Relationship of the Church to the Jews in the Light of the Second Vatican Council Lecture on the Week of Brotherhood in the Gürzenich in Cologne on March 5, 1967; Bishop Dr. Hubert Luthe on his 85th birthday. Rheinlandia, Siegburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-938535-85-1 .
  • Ordered for the people. Memories of the old archbishop of Cologne. Autobiography, Bachem, Cologne 1973.


  • Festschrift for the jubilee year of Cardinal and Archbishop Joseph Frings. Word and work, Cologne 1957.
  • Dieter Froitzheim (ed.): Cardinal Frings - life and work. Wienand, Cologne 1979, ISBN 3-87909-090-4 .
  • Friedhelm Hofmann : “Stüfchen, Eminenz!” Anecdotes about Cologne Cathedral. 2nd Edition. Wienand, Cologne 2004, ISBN 3-87909-281-8 .
  • Joachim Kettel: Josef Cardinal Frings, Life & Work of the Archbishop of Cologne in Anecdotes. JP Bachem, Cologne 2003, ISBN 3-7616-1670-8 .
  • Joachim Sikora, Hans Nitsche (Ed.): Josef Cardinal Frings. Honnefer accents. Bad Honnef 1996, ISBN 3-927566-09-8 .
  • Norbert Trippen : Josef Cardinal Frings (= Publications of the Commission for Contemporary History. Series B: Research. Vol. 94). Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn / Munich / Vienna / Zurich.
  • Volume 1: His work for the Archdiocese of Cologne and for the Church in Germany 2003, ISBN 3-506-79999-1 .
  • Volume 2: His work for the universal Church and his final bishopric years. ISBN 3-506-71345-0 .
  • Friedhelm Ruf : The Rhenish Cardinal - Josef Frings pastor, diplomat, bridge builder. Edited by the Josef Cardinal Frings Society. JP Bachem, Cologne 2015, ISBN 978-3-7616-2951-2 .


Web links

Commons : Joseph Frings  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. St.VkTh website. Rhenofrankonia Bonn
  2. ^ Josef Lenzenweger: Sancta Mariae dell Anima . Herder, Vienna-Rome 1959, p. 153 .
  3. ^ Norbert Trippen: "Josef Cardinal Frings and Konrad Adenauer"
  4. Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945 . Frankfurt am Main 2003, p. 168.
  5. Dominik Groß , Christiane Rinnen, Walter Sonntag - Dentist and war criminals sentenced to death , Zahnärztliche Mitteilungen, Issue 9/2020, pp. 54–56, May 1, 2020. Accessed May 2, 2020.
  6. Speech by Cardinal Joseph Frings on the establishment of Misereor before the general assembly of the German bishops in Fulda, 19.-21. August 1958 , accessed November 30, 2021.
  7. ↑ Helped Nazi criminals as "politically persecuted people and victims of victorious justice".
  8. The forgotten processes
  9. ^ The Genoese Speech , accessed December 7, 2012.
  10. ^ Norbert Trippen: "Josef Cardinal Frings and Konrad Adenauer"
  11. Cardinal leaves CDU . In: Die Zeit , No. 22/1949
  12. August Haag : Bad Honnef on the Rhine. Contributions to the history of our home parish on the occasion of its city development 100 years ago. Bad Honnef 1962, p. VI.
  13. Domradio April 7, 2014
  14. ^ Description in the Rheinisches Bildarchiv
  15. ^ Fring's estate in the estate database
  16. See the titles by Kettel and Hofmann under "Literature".
  17. ^ "Josef Cardinal Frings Society of Neuss am Rhein"
predecessor government office successor
Karl Joseph Cardinal Schulte COA cardinal DE Frings Joseph Richard.png Archbishop of Cologne
Joseph Cardinal Höffner
Adolf Cardinal Bertram Chairman of the Fulda Bishops' Conference
Julius Cardinal Döpfner
Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira Cardinal Protopriest
Antonio Caggiano