Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Berlin

Archdiocese of Berlin
Archidioecesis Berolinensis

St. Hedwig's Cathedral
Country Germany
Ecclesiastical province Berlin
Metropolitan Berlin
Area 31,200 km2 (12,000 sq mi)
- Catholics

386,279 (6.8%)
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Roman Rite
Established 13 August 1930
Cathedral St. Hedwig's Cathedral
Patron saint St. Hedwig of Andechs
St. Otto of Bamberg
St. Peter the Apostle
Current leadership
Pope Benedict XVI
Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki[1]
Auxiliary Bishop Matthias Heinrich
Vicars General Matthias Heinrich
Emeritus Bishops Wolfgang Weider

The Archdiocese of Berlin is a Roman Catholic archdiocese, seated in Berlin and covering the northeast of Germany.

As of 2004 the archdiocese has 386,279 Catholics out of the population of Berlin, most of Brandenburg (except of its southeastern corner, historical Lower Lusatia) and Hither Pomerania, i. e. the German part of Pomerania. This means that a little over 6% of the population in this area is Roman Catholic. There are 122 parishes in the archdiocese.



The archdiocesan coat of arms.

The affairs of the Roman Catholic Church in the Kingdom of Prussia had been reorganised by the Bull "De salute animarum", issued in 1821. Before the Prussian Provinces of Brandenburg and of Pomerania were part of the Vicariate Apostolic of Northern Germany since the Protestant Reformation in the Duchy of Pomerania in 1534 and in Electorate of Brandenburg in 1539 and the conversion of the majority of the inhabitants made the area a Catholic diaspora. In the late 16th and the 17th c. the competent Bishoprics of Brandenburg, Cammin, Havelberg, Lebus, and Roskilde had been secularised, the Holy See considered them as sedes impeditae. In memory of the former bishoprics Berlin's archdiocesan coat-of-arms combines the symbols of the dioceses of Brandenburg, Cammin, Havelberg and Lebus.[2]

With the annexation of most of Silesia until 1763 the bulk of the Diocese of Breslau had become a part of Prussia. Part of its diocesan territory happened to be within the new Province of Brandenburg, because this had been constituted in 1815 including formerly Lower Lusatia.

Breslau's Prince-Episcopal Delegation for Brandenburg and Pomerania

By the Bull "De salute animarum" the other parts of Brandenburg and the Province of Pomerania, except of the districts of Bütow and Lauenburg (Pommern) (until 1922 both part of the Diocese of Culm), were subordinated to Breslau's jurisdiction as an episcopal delegation in 1821, ending the mandate of the Vicariate Apostolic there. The jurisdiction was titled the Prince-Episcopal Delegation for Brandenburg and Pomerania (German: Fürstbischöfliche Delegatur für Brandenburg und Pommern), since Emanuel von Schimonsky was invested to Breslau's see as prince-bishop in 1824.[3]

In 1821 the Delegation district comprised altogether six established Catholic congregations: Berlin (St. Hedwig), Frankfurt upon Oder, Potsdam (Ss. Peter and Paul), Spandau (Ss. Peter and Paul on Gewehrplan, Haselhorst), Stettin, and Stralsund (Heilige Dreifaltigkeit, i.e. Holy Trinity).[4]

Breslau's Prince-Bishop Heinrich Förster (1853–81) gave generous aid to the founding of churches, monastic institutions, and schools, especially in the diaspora regions. The strife that arose between the Catholic Church and the Prussian State brought his labours in the Prussian part of his diocese to an end. He was deposed by the State and had to leave for the episcopal Austrian Silesian castle of Johannesberg in Jauernig, where he died on 20 October 1881.

So Pope Leo XIII appointed as his successor Robert Herzog (1882–86), till then Prince-Episcopal Delegate for Brandenburg and Pomerania and provost of St. Hedwig's Church in Berlin. Prince-Bishop Herzog made every endeavour to bring order out of the confusion into which the quarrel with the State during the immediately preceding years had thrown the affairs of the diocese.

Establishment of the Berlin Diocese

According to the Prussian Concordat of 1929 Pope Pius XI elevated the Prince-Episcopal Delegation for Brandenburg and Pomerania to the Diocese of Berlin on 13 August 1930, becoming a suffragan of the Diocese of Breslau simultaneously elevated to archdiocese, whose Eastern German Ecclesiastical Province further comprised the prior exempt Diocese of Ermland and the new Territorial Prelature of Schneidemühl (German: Prälatur Schneidemühl).

In 1930 the Berlin diocese comprised an area of 60,258 km² with 531,744 Catholics, making up 7.3% of the total population. They were pastorally served by 262 diocesan priests within 149 parishes and chapels of ease.[5]

After World War II Berlin's diocesan territory east of the Oder-Neiße line (East Brandenburg and central and Farther Pomerania) – with 33 parishes and chapels of ease – came under Polish control. Most of the parishioners and priests there had either fled the invading Soviet Red Army or were subsequently expelled by Polish authorities.

Cardinal August Hlond demanded the diocesan territory east of the new border for the creation of new dioceses, he appointed a diocesan administrator for Berlin's eastern diocesan territory seated in Gorzów Wielkopolski (Landsberg an der Warthe). Pope Pius XII refused to acknowledge these claims. In 1951, when the Holy See – similar to West Germany – still asserted that East Brandenburg and Farther Pomerania would be returned to Germany at a near date, the Pope appointed Teodor Bensch (1903–1958), titular bishop of Tabuda, as auxiliary bishop responsible for the Polish part of the diocese of Berlin. His office was titled Apostolic Administration of Cammin, Lebus and the Prelature of Schneidemühl (Polish: Administracja Apostolska Kamieńska, Lubuska i Prałatury Pilskiej).

On 27 June 1972, however, – in response to West Germany's change in Ostpolitik and the Treaty of WarsawPope Paul VI reversed the diocesan boundary along the post-war borders. The Apostolic constitution Episcoporum Poloniae coetus disentangled the East Brandenburgian diocesan area (becoming thus the Diocese of Gorzów) and the Farther Pomeranian diocesan area (becoming the new westerly Diocese of Szczecin-Kamień and the easterly Diocese of Koszalin-Kołobrzeg).[6]

In 1972 also the German part of the Archdiocese of Breslau was reconstituted as the exempt Apostolic Administration of Görlitz. Thus Berlin also turned into exempt status. On 27 June 1994 Pope John Paul II elevated Berlin to the rank of an archdiocese, supervising since the simultaneously erected Diocese of Görlitz (formerly Apostolic Administration) and the prior exempt Diocese of Dresden-Meißen.



  • Christian Schreiber (13 August 1930 Appointed – 1 September 1933 Died)
  • Nikolaus Bares (27 October 1933 Appointed – 1 March 1935 Died)
  • Konrad von Preysing Lichtenegg-Moos (5 July 1935 Appointed – 21 December 1950 Died)
  • Wilhelm Weskamm (4 June 1951 Appointed – 21 Aug 1956 Died)
  • Julius August Cardinal Döpfner (15 Jan 1957 Appointed – 3 Jul 1961 Appointed, Archbishop of München und Freising {Munich})
  • Alfred Cardinal Bengsch (16 Aug 1961 Appointed – 13 Dec 1979 Died)
  • Joachim Cardinal Meisner (22 Apr 1980 Appointed – 20 Dec 1988 Appointed, Archbishop of Köln {Cologne})
  • Georg Cardinal Sterzinsky (28 May 1989 Appointed – 24 Feb 2011 Retired)
  • Rainer Maria Woelki (2 July 2011 Appointed – )

Prince-Episcopal Delegates for Brandenburg and Pomerania

The delegature was combined in personal union with the provostry of St. Hedwig's in Berlin.

  • 1821–1823 – Johann Ambros(ius) Taube (Silesia, *1778 – 22 April 1823*, Berlin),[7] provost of St. Hedwig since 1810
  • 1824–1826 – Hubert Auer (Bingen, *1 May 1780 – 17 February 1838*, Trier)
  • 1827–1829 – Nikolaus Fischer as administrator per pro
  • 1829–1836 – Nikolaus Fischer (*1791– 18 April 1858*, Frankenstein in Schlesien)
  • 1836–1849 – Georg Anton Brinkmann (Billerbeck, *15 October 1796 – 7 May 1856*, Münster in Westphalia)
  • 1849–1850 – Wilhelm Emmanuel Freiherr von Ketteler
  • 1850–1859 – Leopold Pelldram (Schweidnitz, *3 May 1811 – 3 May 1867*, Trier)
  • 1860–1870 – Franz Xaver Karker
  • 1870–1882 – Robert Herzog (Schönwalde bei Frankenstein, * 17 February 1823 – 26 December 1886*, Breslau)
  • 1882–1888 – Johannes Baptist Maria Assmann (Branitz, *26 August 1833 – 27 May 1903*, Ahrweiler)
  • 1889–1897 – Joseph Jahnel (*1834–1897*, Berlin)
  • 1887–1905 – Karl Neuber (*1841–1905*)
  • 1905–1920 – Carl Kleineidam (Hohengiersdorf, *1848–1924*, Giersdorf)
  • 1920–1929 – Josef Deitmer (Münster in Westphalia, *12 August 1865 – 16 January 1929*, Berlin)
  • 1929–1930 – Christian Schreiber, Bishop of Meissen, as administrator of the future diocese of Berlin[8]

Famous people of the Berlin Archdiocese


  • Leo Jablonski, Geschichte des fürstbischöflichen Delegaturbezirks Brandenburg und Pommern: 2 vols., Breslau: 1929, vol. 1: Die äußere Entwicklung; vol. 2: Die innere Entwicklung. No ISBN


  1. ^
  2. ^ Cf. article Geschichte on Diözesanarchiv Berlin, Retrieved 3 April 2010.
  3. ^ However, this rank included a seat in the Prussian House of Lords, but not a territory of secular rule, as used to be the case with earlier prince-bishops.
  4. ^ Cf. Josef Deitmer's explanations in Schlesisches Bonifatius-Vereinsblatt, 1 September 1921, pp. 76seqq., here quoted after Werner Dolata, Briefe aus Deutschland: 77 Jahre Zeitgeschichte; vom 1. Weltkrieg bis zur Wiedervereinigung Deutschlands, 1914 bis 1990, Norderstedt: Books on Demand GmbH, 2004, p. 30. ISBN 3-8334-1292-5
  5. ^ Cf. article Geschichte on Diözesanarchiv Berlin, Retrieved 3 April 2010.
  6. ^ Paulus VI: Const. Apost. Episcoporum Poloniae coetus, AAS 64 (1972), n. 10, pp. 657seq.
  7. ^ Cf. "Johann Ambrosius Taube", in: Neuer Nekrolog der Deutschen, Friedrich August Schmidt (ed.), vol. 1 (1824), pp. 821seq.
  8. ^ Cf. "Berlin, Bistum" in: Visitatur Breslau: Schlesien in Kirche und Welt, Lexikon B. Retrieved on 21 April 2010.

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