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German bishops’ conference laments Catholic enthusiasm for war during World War I

July 31, 2014

In a statement issued for the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, a commission of the German bishops’ conference lamented the enthusiasm for war shown by large sectors of the German Catholic population.

Following the Kulturkampf-- the struggle between the Bismarck regime and the Church in the 1870s-- German Catholics were eager to prove their loyalty to the state, the commission stated in its reflection. “The majority of the German episcopate, many priests, and even the majority of Catholic intellectuals” were supporters of the war.

The commission criticized some German bishops of the time for attempting to influence Pope Benedict XV to adopt a pro-German position.

Mindful of the experience of World War I, the commission warned Catholics not to fall prey to “particularism, tribalism, and nationalism” and called for an “ecclesial culture of humility and self-criticism” in which Christians trust “not in ourselves, but in the Lord of the Church.”


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