Holy See

Holy See

Last updated in December 2014

Relations between the Holy See and the Federal Republic of Germany have traditionally been good. German Federal Presidents paid state visits to the Vatican in 1957, 1973, 1982 and 1994. Federal President Herzog paid an official visit in 1995 and President Rau in March 2004. Federal President Köhler attended Pope John Paul II’s funeral and Pope Benedict XVI’s inauguration ceremony in April 2005 and met with the Pope on 17 November 2006 at a concert and in a private audience at the Vatican. On 4 December 2009, the Augsburg Cathedral Boys’ Choir and the Munich Residenz Chamber Orchestra gave a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, which was attended by Federal President Horst Köhler, in the Sistine Chapel in honour of Pope Benedict XVI. On 5 December 2009, Federal President Köhler was granted a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Federal President Gauck paid an official visit to the Vatican in 2012. Federal Chancellor Merkel attended Pope Francis I’s inauguration ceremony on 19 March 2013 and was granted a private audience on 18 May 2013.

2011 Papal visit

Pope Benedict XVI visited Germany from 22 to 25 September 2011. After attending the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne and spending a few days in his native Bavaria in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI paid his first official visit to Germany at the invitation of Federal President Christian Wulff. The visit was of great significance not only for the many German Catholics, it also marked a high point in relations between Germany and the Holy See. The Pope’s German visit took him to Berlin, Erfurt and Freiburg.

In Berlin, where the last previous papal visit was that by Pope John Paul II in 1996, the programme was mostly of an official nature, including a welcome with military honours by the Federal President, talks with the Federal Chancellor and a speech to the German Bundestag at the invitation of its President, as well as pastoral elements and further talks. The Pope’s talks in Erfurt with representatives of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), which took place in the city’s historic Augustinian Monastery where Martin Luther was a member of the order prior to 1517, sent a strong message in terms of ecumenical relations in the “land of the Reformation”. In Freiburg, the focus was on pastoral matters. Media interest centred on Pope Benedict XVI’s speech to the Bundestag and the speech he gave at the Konzerthaus Freiburg.

Concordats with Germany and the German federal states

The following concordats have been signed with the Vatican by Germany and its federal states:

Concordat between the Holy See and the German Empire of 20 July 1933 (legality and continuing validity recognised and confirmed by a ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court on 26 March 1957), Concordat with Bavaria of 29 March 1924, Concordat with Prussia of 14 June 1929, Concordat with Baden of 12 October 1932.

A number of agreements have been concluded between the Holy See and individual federal states: Lower Saxony (26 February 1965), Rhineland-Palatinate (15 May 1973), North Rhine-Westphalia (26 March 1984), Saarland (12 February 1985), Saxony (3 July 1996), Thuringia (11 June 1997), Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (22 December 1997), Saxony-Anhalt (22 April 1998), Brandenburg (25 May 2004), Bremen (14 May 2004), Hamburg (October 2006) and Schleswig-Holstein (12 January 2009).

The concordats and related agreements mainly deal with the following issues:

  • freedom of worship, freedom to bestow office, guaranteed right of the church to its property and the administration of such property
  • joint affairs of church and state, such as religious education, theological faculties, pastoral care in institutions and the military, cemetery law, marital law and church tax law
  • state payments, building costs, government grants and discharging debts to the state

New diocesan borders:
In 1994, in the wake of German reunification, the borders of the dioceses in the territory of the former GDR were redrawn, and in connection with this also those in northern Germany. An archdiocese was established in Hamburg, Berlin was upgraded to an archdiocese and Magdeburg, Erfurt and Görlitz became dioceses.

Key German-language Catholic institutions in Rome

  • Collegium Germanicum et Hungaricum (college for training candidates for the priesthood), Principal: P. Benedikt Lautenbacher S.J.
  • Santa Maria in Campo Santo Teutonico (priests college for special studies), Principal: Dr Hans-Peter Fischer
  • Roman Institute of the Görres Society, Managing Director: Monseigneur Professor Dr Stefan Heid
  • Santa Maria dell’Anima (priests college for special studies), Principal: Franz Xaver Brandmayr

German members of the College of Cardinals (in order of appointment)

  •  1983 Cardinal Joachim Meisner (until 2014 Archbishop of Cologne)
  • 1985 Cardinal Friedrich Wetter (until 2007 Archbishop of Munich and Freising)
  • 2002 Cardinal Walter Kasper, Curial Cardinal Emeritus (until  June 2010 President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity)
  • 2002 Cardinal Karl Lehmann, Bishop of Mainz (Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference from 1987 to 2008)
  • 2007 Cardinal Paul-Josef Cordes, Curial Cardinal Emeritus (until mid-2010 President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”)
  • 2010 Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising and since 2014 also Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, member of the Council of Cardinals and Coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE)
  • 2010 Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, Curial Cardinal Emeritus (until 2009 President of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences)
  • 2012 Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne
  • 2012 Cardinal Karl Josef Becker SJ, professor emeritus at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome
  • 2014 Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (until 2012 Bishop of Regensburg)

share page:

About us

Entry & Residence

Foreign & European Policy