Pax Christi

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Banners by Pax Christi at the demonstration against the security conference in Munich 2017
The St. Bernhard Church of Peace in Speyer was built between 1953 and 1954 as a symbol of reconciliation between the French and Germans. French Catholics donated half of the construction costs. The Pax-Christi chapel is located in the crypt. The names and coats of arms of 42 countries in which people in sections had joined the Pax Christi movement up to 1944 can be seen in line drawings on the two central pillars of the crypt of St. Bernhard. In small wall niches, stones from all parts of the world are supposed to symbolize the longing for a peaceful coexistence of the international community. In the church, soil from the battlefields of both world wars is kept as a reminder and commemoration of the victims. Since the merger of the five parishes of Speyer on January 1st, 2016, this parish has been named Pax Christi.

Pax Christi (in German Friede Christi ) is the international Catholic organization of the peace movement , which today sees itself as ecumenically open. The name of the movement can be traced back to the motto that Pope Pius XI. gave his pontificate in 1922: " Pax Christi in regno Christi " (The Peace of Christ in Christ's Kingdom). The seat is in Paris.


The organization came into being at the end of the Second World War in France , initially as a “crusade of prayer for reconciliation” and for the healing of Germany from the spiritual and moral effects of the Nazi era . This movement came from a few lay people around the teacher Marthe-Marie Dortel-Claudot , a committed Catholic in southern France, who was the first international general secretary until 1950. It was sponsored by Bishop Pierre-Marie Théas von Montauban , who had made the Franco-German reconciliation his concern. Forty French bishops signed the call for a joint “crusade of reconciliation between Germany and France” before the end of the war. In Germany the appeal was taken up and spread. Many pilgrimages were signs of repentance and repentance. Soon the name of the movement was changed to the more neutral Pax Christi .

After the end of the war, Bishop Théas (Pax Christi President until 1950), Bishop of Lourdes since 1945 , campaigned for the release of German prisoners of war. Pax Christi soon found followers in Germany too; The focus of the work was initially the Franco-German reconciliation, whereby common prayer and common pilgrimages played a major role.

As early as 1946, the “Croisade de la Paix” (Crusade for Peace) took place in the French pilgrimage site of Vézelay with a total of 40,000 participants from Belgium , Spain , Switzerland , Italy , Luxembourg , Canada , the USA and France , the 14 heavy wooden crosses as a symbol their desire for peace and reconciliation to Vézelay. At the initiative of French priests, the German prisoners of war from a nearby camp used in the preparation of the event were invited to take part. They brought the 15th cross with them, which was included as the cross of the Germans.

In February 1947 there was a first meeting in Lourdes under the name of Pax Christi, to which 17 Germans - among them the Capuchin Father Manfred Hörhammer - were invited. On the initiative of Bishop Théas, they were accompanied on their way back by German prisoners of war who have now been released.

From April 1st to 4th, 1948, the association's first international congress took place as a working conference in the Lower Rhine Marian pilgrimage site of Kevelaer , whose location near the border and its origins during the Thirty Years' War offered the young movement good points of contact. There, on April 3, 1948, the formal establishment of the German branch was completed.

The German section later also succeeded the Peace Association of German Catholics , founded in 1919, founded by Max Joseph Metzger after the First World War.

After the Korean War , the Catholic Church in Germany became anti-communist . Pacifist endeavors were suspected of wanting “peace at any price”, that is, of being too tolerant of communism. The debate about the exact content of Catholic pacifism , which in the Council document Gaudium et Spes of 1965 declared the complete abolition of war to be a binding goal, has continued ever since.

The formative figures of the early days in Germany included the Capuchin Father Manfred Hörhammer as “Spiritual Adviser” and Alfons Erb as the movement's vice-president, who helped Pax Christi to come to terms with Polish Catholicism and the conflict in the 1960s with the crimes committed by Germans in World War II in Eastern Europe. This work gave rise to the initiative to found the Maximilian Kolbe factory by Pax Christi and other sponsors. The longstanding Vice President Gisela Wiese was a defining factor in the commitment to commemorating the Shoah .

In the 1970s, the German section of Pax Christi was increasingly open to North-South dialogue and ecumenical concerns. During the rearmament debate (1979–1984), Pax Christi clearly positioned itself on the side of the political peace movement and in 1986 also called for conscientious objection to be used as an instrument to overcome the "systems". The global political situation changed faster than expected: Again in Kevelaer in 1988 the then President of Pax Christi International , Cardinal Franz König , called for example to take the initiatives of Mikhail Gorbachev seriously. Over the deployment of armed NATO troops in 1996/97, under the impression of the Srebrenica massacre , violent, polarizing clashes broke out within the members of the German section.

Since then, the movement has been trying to focus on new areas of work, sometimes with great success, sometimes a bit outside the public eye. At the 2008 congress in Berlin, on the 60th anniversary of the German section, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone sent a message of greetings to the motto of Pope Pius XI. is remembered as the standard of the Catholic peace movement: Pax Christi in regno Christi , which gave the movement its name in 1945.

In June 2017 the Bishop of Linz Manfred Scheuer resigned as President of Pax Christi Austria after a lecture by the Palestinian Ambassador Salah Abdel-Shafi on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Representatives of the Israelite religious community had previously qualified the event in Linz as anti-Semitic . Pax Christi has denied this claim and referred to a video recording of the event. In a statement, reference was made to the misuse of the term “ anti-Semitism ” as an instrument of political debate and stated: “If Pax Christi is now on the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of Palestine for the end of this occupation and for the two-state solution, so has that has nothing to do with "anti-Semitism", but is an expression of our fundamental commitment to peace, non-violence, international law and human rights. "


Pax Christi International is divided into national sections. Such sections exist in most western and central European countries, as well as in the USA, Australia and New Zealand . In the African states, on the other hand, there are so far only "associated groups" that have not yet achieved the status of independent sections. Pax Christi Warszawa and Pax Christi Hungary have the same status . There is also a wide range of affiliated organizations and official partner organizations in Eastern Europe, Asia , the Middle East , Africa and Latin America . In the international context, Pax Christi is still regarded as the official Catholic peace movement, regardless of the criticism described. At the top, as episcopal president since 2007, is Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo , Archbishop of Kinshasa (Congo). Pax Christi International is a member of the International Coordination for the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). The International Secretariat of Pax Christi is located in Brussels. Some permanent employees and volunteers work here for one to two years. The volunteers are recruited from the individual regional sections or from partner organizations such as B. ASF ( Action Reconciliation for Peace Services ).

General Secretary is Margaretha Vanaerschot.


Anti-Iraq war protests in front of the main gate of the US-American Spangdahlem Air Base in April 2003

The German section, like some other sections, is divided below the section level into diocesan associations - formerly "diocesan offices" - which follow the Catholic diocesan structure; There is a joint regional association in the Diocese of Osnabrück and the Archdiocese of Hamburg, and the "Regional Association East" for the dioceses of Dresden-Meißen, Magdeburg, Erfurt and Görlitz. During the 1980s, there was also a broad structure of regional and local “base groups”, which has now been greatly thinned out. In addition to these locally oriented groups, there are also thematically oriented, diocese-wide working groups in some diocesan offices. The highest body of the section is the assembly of delegates, which elects the chairman and chairwoman, other board members and the members of the commissions. The latter work nationwide on various topics, for which they receive their work assignment from the delegates' assembly. The President of the Section is appointed by the German Bishops' Conference on the proposal of Pax Christi ; currently this is the bishop emeritus of Fulda , Heinz Josef Algermissen . For the German section, in addition to dealing with the situation in the Middle East and working in Pax Christi International, the focus is on asylum and refugee work, commitment to the civil peace service and actions against arms exports (see outcry action). Peace and reconciliation projects have been set up in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo since 1997, a Civil Peace Service (CPS) project has existed in the Philippines since 2005 and a CPS project in northern Sri Lanka since the beginning of 2006. In addition, the German section is one of the participating organizations of the Free Gaza movement . On June 10, 2011, Pax Christi wrote an open letter that representatives of other peace organizations co-signed to support Israel’s voices criticizing the Palestinian policy in Die Linke . The individual diocese offices, which have a great deal of autonomy, partly pursue their own priorities.

In November 2011, Pax Christi directly from Axel HA Holst, the representative of the German-Israeli Society Aachen eV on the second Israel Congress , criticized as Pax Christi had openly shown sympathy for the families of Palestinians in exchange for the Israeli Gilad Shalit released had been.

At the beginning of 2017, the Association of Dioceses of Germany (VDD), the legal entity of the German Bishops' Conference , announced that it would classify Pax Christi in category C = “non-diocesan not eligible for funding” as part of their budget revision. The subsidy from church tax funds, which most recently made up around 20 percent of Pax Christi’s income, is to be discontinued from 2018.


The situation for Pax Christi in Austria is similar to that of the German section. The basis of its content can also be found there in an interpretation of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount based on Christian values ​​of justice and solidarity, which calls for social change. The question, which is still regarded as the core task of Pax Christi, with which methods war can be banned from politics and what the contribution of the church looks like, is mainly answered with the link “Justice creates peace”.


International presidents

In 2007 a co-presidency was established by a bishop and a representative of the laity. This is Marie Dennis since 2007 .

German presidents

French President

Activities of individual groups

  • The Pax-Christi diocese office Augsburg operates the peace museum peace rooms in the Bad Schachen district of Lindau / Bodensee.
  • The group Pax Christi Kevelaer (eV) maintains an archive on the history and spirituality of Catholic peace movements in the 20th century.




  • The way to peace. First workshop of Pax Christi in Kevelaer (documentation; Ed. HH Molls), Cologne (Bachem) 1948.
  • Pax Christi - Kevelaer 1948–1988 , Kevelaer (Butzon and Bercker) 1988.
  • Marthe-Marie Dortel-Claudot , PAX CHRIST. Becoming, being and working, in: Seat of Wisdom . Marianisches Jahrbuch (Kevelaer) 01/2008, pp. 35–41 (first published in 1948).
  • Jens Oboth: Pax Christi Germany in the Cold War 1945-1957. Establishment, self-image and "coming to terms with the past". Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh: Paderborn 2017. ISBN 978-3-506-78273-1 ; review

Important papal encyclicals on the peace of nations

Numerous other letters and addresses by the popes mentioned are also important, in particular the Christmas addresses of Pius XII. 1939–1945, the peace message of John XXIII. from 1961, the speeches and messages for the respective World Day of Peace since 1968, moreover one UN address each by the Pope in 1965, 1979, 1995, 2008 and the Council document Gaudium et Spes as well as rallies by the Pope. Council Iustitia et Pax .

Web links

Commons : Pax Christi  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Open Monument Day: St. Bernhard Church of Peace open ( Memento from January 7, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  2. Canal Speyer - Rheinlokal: The new parish Pax Christi Speyer
  3. Wilfried Köpke : “As we also forgive ... Germany” [50 years of Pax Christi], in: Orientation, Zurich 59 (1995) pp. 210–212.
  4. On the person see Franz Josef Schäfer: Der Kapuziner Manfred Hörhammer, in: Yearbook for West German State History 41 (2015), pp. 509-590.
  5. Wilfried Köpke : The controversial peace fighters. 50 years of Pax Christi ”, 30 'television feature, ARD, March 29, 1998
  6. Wilfried Köpke : Friedensstandpunkt or Friedensbewegung, in: Orientation, Zurich 61 (1997) pp. 70–72.
  7. Message from Kard.VON CARD. Tarcisio Bertone on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Catholic peace movement "Pax Christi" in Germany " , at, accessed on October 22, 2018.
  8. The Middle East Conflict and the Role of the European Union Solidarity Workshop on June 14, 2017
  9. Pax Christi Austria on the resignation of Bishop Manfred Scheuer as President PAX, magazine of the peace movement Pax Christi Austria, autumn 2017, p. 3.
  10. Pax Christi Egyesület: About us . ( Memento of February 8, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
  11. The new general secretary is Margaretha Vanaerschot, March 2nd, 2016. ( Memento of the original from November 7th, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  12. ^ Open letter to the parliamentary committee of the party Die Linke , June 10, 2011
  15. To the bishops: promoting pax christi permanently ( memento of the original of February 17, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Pax Christi press release of February 1, 2017, accessed February 16, 2017. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  16. To the bishops: pax christi do not delete! ( Memento of the original from February 17, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Pax Christi, information about the online petition, accessed February 16, 2017. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  18. Sollicitudo rei socialis website of the Vatican (German), accessed on July 2, 2018.