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Home > Catholic Library > Church Documents > Concordat with the German Reich (1933)

Concordat Between the Holy See and the German Reich

July 20, 1933

His Holiness Pope Pius XI and the President of the German Reich, moved by a common desire to consolidate and enhance the friendly relations existing between the Holy See and the German Reich, wish to regulate the relations between the Catholic Church and the State for the whole territory of the German Reich in a permanent manner and on a basis acceptable to both parties. They have decided to conclude a solemn agreement, which will supplement the Concordats already concluded with certain individual German states, and will ensure for the remaining States fundamentally uniform treatment of their respective problems.

For this purpose:

His Holiness Pope Pius XI has appointed as his Plenipotentiary His Eminence the Most Reverend Lord Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, his Secretary of State.

The President of the German Reich has appointed as Plenipotentiary the Vice-Chancellor of the German Reich, Herr Franz von Papen.

Who, having exchanged their respective credentials and found them to be in due and proper form, have agreed to the following articles:

Article 1

The German Reich guarantees freedom of profession and public practice of the Catholic religion.

It acknowledges the right of the Catholic Church, within the limit of those laws which are applicable to all, to manage and regulate her own affairs independently, and, within the framework of her own competence, to publish laws and ordinances binding on her members.

Article 2

The Concordats concluded with Bavaria (1924), Prussia (1929) and Baden (1932) remain in force, and the rights and privileges of the Catholic Church recognized therein are secured unchanged within the territories of the States concerned. For the remaining States the agreements entered into in the present Concordat come into force in their entirety. These last are also binding for those States named above in so far as they affect matters not regulated by the regional Concordats or are complementary to the settlement already made.

In the future, regional Concordats with States of the German Reich will be concluded only with the agreement of the Reich Government.

Article 3

In order to foster good relations between the Holy See and the German Reich, an Apostolic Nuncio will reside in the capital of the German Reich and an Ambassador of the German Reich at the Holy See, as heretofore.

Article 4

In its relations and correspondence with the bishops, clergy and other members of the Catholic Church in Germany, the Holy See enjoys full freedom. The same applies to the bishops and other diocesan officials in their dealings with the faithful in all matters belonging to their pastoral office.

Instructions, ordinances, Pastoral Letters, official diocesan gazettes, and other enactments regarding the spiritual direction of the faithful issued by the ecclesiastical authorities within the framework of their competence (Art. 1, Sect. 2) may be published without hindrance and brought to the notice of the faithful in the form hitherto usual.

Article 5

In the exercise of their spiritual activities the clergy enjoy the protection of the State in the same way as State officials. The State will take proceedings in accordance with the general provisions of State law against any outrage offered to the clergy personally or directed against their ecclesiastical character, or any interference with the duties of their office, and in case of need will provide official protection.

Article 6

Clerics and Religious are freed from any obligation to undertake official offices and such obligations as, according to the provisions of Canon Law, are incompatible with the clerical or religious state. This applies particularly to the office of magistrate, juryman, member of Taxation Committee or member of the Fiscal Tribunal.

Article 7

The acceptance of an appointment or office in the State, or in any publicly constituted corporation dependent on the State, requires, in the case of the clergy, the nihil obstat of the Diocesan Ordinary of the individual concerned, as well as that of the Ordinary of the place in which the publicly constituted corporation is situated. The nihil obstat may be withdrawn at any time for grave reasons affecting ecclesiastical interests.

Article 8

The official income of the clergy is immune from distraint to the same extent as is the official salary of officials of the Reich and State.

Article 9

The clergy may not be required by judicial and other officials to give information concerning matters which have been entrusted to them while exercising the care of souls, and which therefore come within the obligation of pastoral secrecy.

Article 10

The wearing of clerical dress or of a religious habit on the part of lay folk, or of clerics or religious who have been forbidden to wear them by a final and valid injunction made by the competent ecclesiastical authority and officially communicated to the State authority, is liable to the same penalty on the part of the State as the misuse of military uniform.

Article 11

The present organization and demarcation of dioceses of the Catholic Church in the German Reich remains in force. Such rearrangements of a bishopric or of an ecclesiastical province or of other diocesan demarcations as shall seem advisable in the future, so far as they involve changes within the boundaries of a German State, remain subject to the agreement of the Government of the State concerned.

Rearrangements and alterations which extend beyond the boundaries of a German State require the agreement of the Reich Government, to whom it shall be left to secure the consent of the regional Government in question. The same applies to rearrangements or alterations of ecclesiastical Provinces involving several German States. The foregoing conditions do not apply to such ecclesiastical boundaries as are laid down merely in the interests of local pastoral care.

In the case of any territorial reorganization within the German Reich, the Reich Government will communicate with the Holy See with a view to rearrangement of the organization and demarcation of dioceses.

Article 12

Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 11, ecclesiastical offices may be freely constituted and changed, unless the expenditure of State funds is involved. The creation and alteration of parishes shall be carried out according to principles with which the diocesan bishops are agreed, and for which the Reich Government will endeavor to secure uniform treatment as far as possible from the State Governments.

Article 13

Catholic parishes, parish and diocesan societies, episcopal sees, bishoprics and chapters, religious Orders and Congregations, as well as institutions, foundations and property which are under the administration of ecclesiastical authority, shall retain or acquire respectively legal competence in the civil domain according to the general prescriptions of civil law. They shall remain publicly recognized corporations in so far as they have been such hitherto; similar rights may be granted to the remainder in accordance with those provisions of the law which apply to all.

Article 14.

As a matter of principle the Church retains the right to appoint freely to all Church offices and benefices without the co-operation of the State or of civil communities, in so far as other provisions have not been made in previous Concordats mentioned in Article 2. The regulation made for appointment to the Metropolitan see of Freiburg (the Ecclesiastical Province of the Upper Rhine) is to be duly applied to the two suffragan bishoprics of Rottenburg and Mainz, as well as to the bishopric of Meissen. With regard to Rottenburg and Mainz the same regulation holds for appointments to the Cathedral Chapter, and for the administration of the right of patronage. Furthermore, there is accord on the following points:

  1. Catholic clerics who hold an ecclesiastical office in Germany or who exercise pastoral or educational functions must:
      (a) Be German citizens.
      (b) Have matriculated from a German secondary school.
      (c) Have studied philosophy and theology for at least three years at a German State University, a German ecclesiastical college, or a papal college in Rome.
  2. The Bull nominating Archbishops, Coadjutors "cum jure successionis", or appointing a "Praelatus nullius", will not be issued until the name of the appointee has been submitted to the representative of the National Government in the territory concerned, and until it has been ascertained that no objections of a general political nature exist.

By agreement between Church and State, Paragraph 1, sections (a) (b) and (c) may be disregarded or set aside.

Article 15

Religious Orders and Congregations are not subject to any special restrictions on the part of the State, either as regards their foundation, the erection of their various establishments, their number, the selection of members (save for the special provisions of paragraph 2 of this article), pastoral activity, education, care of the sick and charitable work, or as regards the management of their affairs and the administration of their property.

Religious Superiors whose headquarters are within Germany must be German citizens. Provincials and other Superiors of Orders, whose headquarters lie outside Germany, have the right of visitation of those of their establishments which lie within Germany.

The Holy See will endeavor to ensure that the provincial organization of conventual establishments within the German Reich shall be such that, as far as possible, German establishments do not fall under the jurisdiction of foreign provincials. Agreements may be made with the Reich Government in cases where the small number of houses makes a special German province impracticable, or where special grounds exist for the retention of a provincial organization which is firmly established and has acquired an historic nature.

Article 16

Before bishops take possession of their dioceses they are to take an oath of fealty either to the Reich Representative of the State concerned, or to the President of the Reich, according to the following formula: "Before God and on the Holy Gospels I swear and promise as becomes a bishop, loyalty to the German Reich and to the State of . . . I swear and promise to honor the legally constituted Government and to cause the clergy of my diocese to honor it. In the performance of my spiritual office and in my solicitude for the welfare and the interests of the German Reich, I will endeavor to avoid all detrimental acts which might endanger it."

Article 17

The property and other rights of public corporation, institutions, foundations and associations of the Catholic Church regarding their vested interests, are guaranteed according to the common law of the land.

No building dedicated to public worship may be destroyed for any reason whatsoever without the previous consent of ecclesiastical authorities concerned.

Article 18

Should it become necessary to abrogate the performance of obligations undertaken by the State towards the Church, whether based on law, agreement or special charter, the Holy See and the Reich will elaborate in amicable agreement the principles according to which the abrogation is to be carried out.

Legitimate traditional rights are to be considered as titles in law.

Such abrogation of obligations must be compensated by an equivalent in favor of the claimant.

Article 19

Catholic Theological Faculties in State Universities are to be maintained. Their relation to ecclesiastical authorities will be governed by the respective Concordats and by special Protocols attached to the same, and with due regard to the laws of the Church in their regard. The Reich Government will endeavor to secure for all these Catholic Faculties in Germany a uniformity of practical administration corresponding to the general spirit and tenor of the various agreements concerned.

Article 20

Where other agreements do not exist, the Church has the right to establish theological and philosophical colleges for the training of its clergy, which institutions are to be wholly dependent on the ecclesiastical authorities if no State subsidies are sought.

The establishment, management and administration if theological seminaries and hostels for clerical students, within the limits of the law applicable to all, is exclusively the prerogative of the ecclesiastical authorities.

Article 21

Catholic religious instruction in elementary, senior, secondary and vocational schools constitutes a regular portion of the curriculum, and is to be taught in accordance with the principles of the Catholic Church. In religious instruction, special care will be taken to inculcate patriotic, civic and social consciousness and sense of duty in the spirit of the Christian Faith and the moral code, precisely as in the case of other subjects. The syllabus and the selection of textbooks for religious instruction will be arranged by consultative agreement with the ecclesiastical authorities, and these latter have the right to investigate whether pupils are receiving religious instruction in accordance with the teachings and requirements of the Church. Opportunities for such investigation will be agreed upon with the school authorities.

Article 22

With regard to the appointment of Catholic religious instructors, agreement will be arrived at as a result of mutual consultation on the part of the bishop unfit for the further exercise of their teaching functions, either on pedagogical grounds or by reason of their moral conduct, may not be employed for religious instruction so long as the obstacle remains.

Article 23

The retention of Catholic denomination schools and the establishment of new ones, is guaranteed. In all parishes in which parents or guardians request it, Catholic elementary schools will be established, provided that the number of pupils available appears to be sufficient for a school managed and administered in accordance with the standards prescribed by the State, due regard being had to the local conditions of school organizations.

Article 24

In all Catholic elementary schools only such teachers are to be employed as are members of the Catholic Church, and who guarantee to fulfill the special requirements of a Catholic school.

Within the frame-work of the general professional training of teachers, arrangements will be made which will secure the formation and training of Catholic teachers in accordance with the special requirements of Catholic denominational schools.

Article 25

Religious Orders and Congregations are entitled to establish and conduct private schools, subject to the general laws and ordinances governing education. In so far as these schools follow the curriculum prescribed for State schools, those attending them acquire the same qualifications as those attending State schools. The admission of members of religious Orders or Congregations to the teaching office, and their appointment to elementary, secondary or senior schools, are subject to the general conditions applicable to all.

Article 26

With certain reservations pending a later comprehensive regulation of the marriage laws, it is understood that, apart from cases of critical illness of one member of an engaged couple which does not permit of a postponement, and in cases of great moral emergency (the presence of which must be confirmed by the proper ecclesiastical authority), the ecclesiastical marriage ceremony should precede the civil ceremony. In such cases the pastor is in duty bound to notify the matter immediately at the Registrar's office.

Article 27

The Church will accord provision to the German army for the spiritual guidance of its Catholic officers, personnel and other officials, as well as for the families of the same.

The administration of such pastoral care for the army is to be vested in the army bishop. The latter's ecclesiastical appointment is to be made by the Holy See after contact has been made with the Reich Government in order to select a suitable candidate who is agreeable to both parties.

The ecclesiastical appointment of military chaplains and other military clergy will be made after previous consultations with the appropriate authorities of the Reich by the army bishop. The army bishop may appoint only such chaplains as receive permission from their diocesan bishop to engage on military pastoral work, together with a certificate of suitability. Military chaplains have the rights of parish priests with regard to the troops and other army personnel assigned to them.

Detailed regulations for the organization of pastoral work by chaplains will be supplied by an Apostolic Brief. Regulations for official aspects of the same work will be drawn up by the Reich Government.

Article 28

In hospitals, prisons, and similar public institutions the Church is to retain the right of visitation and of holding divine service, subject to the rules of the said institutions. If regular pastoral care is provided for such institutions, and if pastors be appointed as State or other public officials, such appointments will be made by agreement with the ecclesiastical authorities.

Article 29

Catholic members of a non-German minority living within the Reich, in matters concerning the use of their mother tongue in church services [sermons], religious instruction and the conduct of church societies, will be accorded no less favorable treatment than that which is actually and in accordance with law permitted to individuals of German origin and speech living within the boundaries of the corresponding foreign States.

Article 30

On Sundays and Holy days, special prayers, conforming to the Liturgy, will be offered during the principal Mass for the welfare of the German Reich and its people in all episcopal, parish and conventual churches and chapels of the German Reich.

Article 31

Those Catholic organizations and societies which pursue exclusively charitable, cultural or religious ends, and, as such, are placed under the ecclesiastical authorities, will be protected in their institutions and activities.

Those Catholic organizations which to their religious, cultural and charitable pursuits add others, such as social or professional interests, even though they may be brought into national organizations, are to enjoy the protection of Article 31, Section I, provided they guarantee to develop their activities outside all political parties.

It is reserved to the central Government and the German episcopate, in joint agreement, to determine which organizations and associations come within the scope of this article.

In so far as the Reich and its constituent States take charge of sport and other youth organizations, care will be taken that it shall be possible for the members of the same regularly to practice their religious duties on Sundays and feast days, and that they shall not be required to do anything not in harmony with their religious and moral convictions and obligations.

Article 32

In view of the special situation existing in Germany, and in view of the guarantee provided through this Concordat of legislation directed to safeguard the rights and privileges of the Roman Catholic Church in the Reich and its component States, the Holy See will prescribe regulations for the exclusion of clergy and members of religious Orders from membership of political parties, and from engaging in work on their behalf.

Article 33

All matters relating to clerical persons or ecclesiastical affairs, which have not been treated of in the foregoing articles, will be regulated for the ecclesiastical sphere according to current Canon Law.

Should differences of opinion arise regarding the interpretation or execution of any of the articles of this Concordat, the Holy See and the German Reich will reach a friendly solution by mutual agreement.

Article 34

This Concordat, whose German and Italian texts shall have equal binding force, shall be ratified, and the certificates of ratification shall be exchanged, as soon as possible. It will be in force from the day of such exchange.

In witness hereof, the plenipotentiaries have signed this Concordat. Signed in two original exemplars, in the Vatican City, July 20th, 1933.

(Signed) Eugenio, Cardinal Pacelli
(Signed) Franz von Papen


At the signing of the Concordat concluded today between the Holy See and the German Reich, the undersigned, being regularly thereto empowered, have adjoined the following explanations which form an integral part of the Concordat itself.

In re: Article 3. The Apostolic Nuncio to the German Reich, in accordance with the exchange of notes between the Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin and the Reich Foreign Office on the 11th and the 27th of March respectively, shall be the Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps thereto accredited.

Article 13. It is understood that the Church retains the right to levy Church taxes.

Article 14, Par. 2. It is understood that when objections of a general political nature exist, they shall be presented within the shortest possible time. If after twenty days such representations have not been made, the Holy See may be justified in assuming that no objections exist to the candidate in question. The names of the persons concerned will be kept confidential until the announcement of the appointment. No right of the State to assert a veto is to be derived from this article.

Article 17. In so far as public buildings or properties are devoted to ecclesiastical purposes, these are to be retained as before, subject to existing agreements.

Article 19, Par 2. This clause is based, at the time of signature of this Concordat, especially on the Apostolic Constitution, "Deus Scientiarum Dominus' of May 24th, 1931, and the Instruction of July 7th, 1932.

Article 20. Hostels which are administered by the Church in connection with certain Universities and secondary schools, will be recognized, from the point of view of taxation, as essentially ecclesiastical institutions in the proper sense of the word, and as integral parts of diocesan organization.

Article 24. In so far as private institutions are able to meet the requirements of the new educational code with regard to the training of teachers, all existing establishments of religious Orders and Congregations will be given due consideration in the accordance or recognition.

Article 26. A severe moral emergency is taken to exist when there are insuperable or disproportionately difficult and costly obstacles impeding the procuring of documents necessary for the marriage at the proper time.

Article 27, Par. 1. Catholic officers, officials and personnel, their families included, do not belong to local parishes, and are not to contribute to their maintenance.

Article 27, Par 4. The publication of the Apostolic Brief will take place after consultation with the Reich Government.

Article 28. In cases of urgency entry of the clergy is guaranteed at all times.

Article 29. Since the Reich Government has seen its way to come to an agreement regarding non-German minorities, the Holy See declares -- in accordance with the principles it has constantly maintained regarding the right to employ the vernacular in Church services [sermons], religious instruction and the conduct of Church societies -- that it will bear in mind similar clauses protective of German minorities when establishing Concordats with other countries.

Article 31, Par. 4. The principles laid down in Article 31, Sect. 4 hold good also for the Labor Service.

Article 32. It is understood that similar provisions regarding activity in Party politics will be introduced by the Reich Government for members of non-catholic denominations. The conduct, which has been made obligatory for the clergy and members of religious Orders in Germany in virtue of Article 32, does not involve any sort of limitation of official and prescribed preaching and interpretation of the dogmatic and moral teachings and principles of the Church.

(Signed) Eugenio, Cardinal Pacelli
(Signed) Franz von Papen

At the Vatican City, July 20th, 1933.

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