Clemens August Graf von Galen

Clemens August Graf von Galen was bishop of Münster from 1933 to 1946. An opponent of National Socialist ideology, he was involved in preparing the papal encyclical Mit brennender Sorge of March of 1937 on the situation of the Catholic Church in Germany.

The scion of old Catholic nobility, von Galen was ordained a priest of the See of Münster in 1904. He served as a priest in the capital, Berlin, from 1906 to 1929. Confronted by modern big city life, von Galen remained loyal to his traditional origins rooted in obedience and criticized the Weimar Republic’s innovations. Although National Conservative in his views, he nonetheless emphatically repudiated emergent National Socialism as heresy. Von Galen served as a parish priest in Münster once again from 1929 to 1933. He became Bishop of Münster in 1933.

In the years that followed, von Galen took a clear stand against the Nazis’ racial policy and anti-church policy. In 1937, he traveled to Rome at the invitation of Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli (1876–1958) in order to collaborate with Cardinals Michael von Faulhaber (1869–1952), Adolf Bertram (1859–1945), Konrad Graf von Preysing (1880–1950) and Karl Josef Schulte (1871–1941) on drafting Pius XI’s papal encyclical Mit brennender Sorge, which was intended to unambiguously expose the regime’s ideology of blood and race to the people of the world and is known as the Vatican’s boldest statement against the Nazi regime.

In 1941, von Galen delivered sensational sermons, which were directed primarily against the Nazis’ confiscation of monasteries and euthanasia program. Whereas the bishop fully expected to be arrested as a result, the regime refrained out of fear of domestic unrest. Thereafter, von Galen was known as the “Lion of Münster” in Germany and abroad. On February 18, 1946, Pope Pius XII appointed him Cardinal in recognition for his committed stand during the Third Reich. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

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