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Dear visitor: Summer is here, and you may be thinking about a well-deserved vacation, family get-togethers, BBQs with neighborhood friends. More than likely, making a donation to Catholic Answers is not on your radar right now. But this is exactly the time we most need your help. The “summer slowdown” in donations is upon us, but the work of spreading the gospel and explaining and defending the Faith never takes a break. Your gift today will change lives and save souls for Christ this summer! The reward is eternal. Thank you and God bless.


Prussian diocese, former electoral principality

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Brandenburg, formerly an electoral principality (the Mark of Brandenburg), and a diocese in the heart of the present Kingdom of Prussia, now a Province of Prussia and in ecclesiastical order an Apostolic Delegature.

I. HISTORY.—The lands extending eastward from the Elbe to the Vistula, once inhabited by Germans, were invaded by Slavic tribes who, during the sixth century of the Christian era, pushed their way as far as the Elbe and the Saale in Thuringia. Charlemagne was the first to check their advance; later, Henry I attacked them, captured Brennabor, the stronghold of the Lusatians, and to safeguard his conquests established the North Mark. In 939 Otto I brought the country of the Hevelli under his power, placed the Slavic races as far as the Oder under tribute, and to further the work of their conversion founded the dioceses of Havelberg and Brandenburg (948), which in 968 were placed under the recently founded Archdiocese of Magdeburg. Nevertheless, Christianity made slow progress. The hate of the subdued for their German conquerors, far from abating, burst forth in a great uprising (983). The Slays pressed on as far as the Elbe, conquered Brandenburg and Havelberg, and destroyed the seeds of Christian civilization that had been planted there. Emperors Henry II and Conrad II, it is true, again brought the Lusatians under the power of the German Empire, but the real evangelization of the country was not resumed until the time of Count Albert of Ballenstadt, founder of the Ascanian line, who had been made Margrave of the North Mark by Emperor Lothair II (1134). Albert entered into friendly relations with the Wendish prince, Pribislav, at that time the ruler of Brandenburg, was chosen by him as his heir, and in 1150 took possession of the land, assuming at the same time the title of Margrave of Brandenburg. He brought colonists from the Lower Rhine and Utrecht, who by the methods learned in their old homes reclaimed the swamp lands of the Mark for agricultural purposes; the cities were peopled anew; the Dioceses of Brandenburg and Havelberg reestablished; churches and monasteries erected; and the Wendish population soon won over to Christianity and the German Empire. The most active part in the conversion of the country was taken by the Premonstratensians and Cistercians. Even before the death of their founder, St. Norbert, Bishop of Magdeburg (1126-34), the Premonstratensians founded the monastery of Gottesgnaden (1131) and later that of Leitzkau, near Magdeburg (1149), as well as monasteries at Jerichow (1144), the city of Brandenburg (1165), Gramzow in the Uckermark (c. 1180), and elsewhere. The bishoprics of Brandenburg and Havelberg and the seats in their respective cathedral chapters were held by members of this order. The Premonstratensians were equalled in zeal, particularly during the thirteenth century, by the Cistercians, who had been introduced into the country by Albert‘s son and successor. Their foundations at Zinna (1170), Lehnin (1183), Chorin (1272), Juterbog (1282), Himmelpforte (c. 1290), etc., were centers for the work of colonization, which was conducted on a large scale.

When the Ascanian line had become extinct, Emperor Louis the Bavarian annexed the Mark to his own territories (1320), but as early as 1373 the House of Wittelsbach was forced to relinquish Brandenburg, which in 1356 had been raised to the rank of an electorate, to Emperor Charles IV, who made it a dependency of the Bohemian Crown. Charles restored discipline, put an end to the extortion of the nobles, established the cathedral chapter of Tangermunde, and raised the Mark to renewed prosperity. The Dioceses of Brandenburg and Havelberg, however, ceased to be direct fiefs of the empire. Charles’s son, Sigismund, mortgaged the Mark (1388-1411) and in 1411 appointed as Statthalter (Governor) Burgrave Frederick of Nuremberg, who took possession in 1412, and, having overcome the opposition of the nobles, was solemnly invested with the Mark of Brandenburg as an elector of the German Empire (1417). In this way Brandenburg passed into the possession of the Hohenzollerns, who have since held it without interruption. While Frederick I occupied himself almost exclusively with matters connected with the empire, his son, Frederick II (1440-70), concentrated his attention on the government of his territory. Distinguished from his youth for great piety, he promoted the religious life of his subjects, worked for the reform of the clergy and monasteries, made the cathedral chapters of Brandenburg and Havelberg centers of religious and secular culture, founded the Order of the Swan for nobles, and received from Pope Nicholas V (1447) the right of appointment for the dioceses of the Mark. His grandson John, surnamed Cicero (1486-99), took the initiative in the establishment of the University of Frankfort on the Oder, opened in 1506, and destined to be for a time a stronghold of Catholicism in the religious wars stirred up by Luther.

Dissensions between bishops and people had cooperated with other unfortunate circumstances in the Mark of Brandenburg, to create conditions amid which the new teachings took rapid root. Elector Joachim I (1499-1535), whose younger brother, Albert, was made Archbishop of Magdeburg and Bishop of Halberstadt in 1513, and in 1514 Archbishop and Elector of Mainz and Archchancellor of the German Empire, was extremely hostile towards the religious innovations, and endeavored to have the edict formally condemning Luther passed by the Reichstag, at Worms. He forbade the circulation of Luther’s translation of the Bible and the preaching of the new doctrines within his territory, and he prohibited his subjects from attending the University of Wittenberg.

Through the efforts of wandering preachers, nevertheless, Luther’s teachings soon gained a large following, not only in various parts of the Mark, but in the very family of the elector, counting among its adherents his cousin Albert, Grand Master of the German Order, his son-in-law, John of Anhalt, and even his wife, Elizabeth. Before his death, Joachim made his two sons, coheirs of his lands, solemnly promise fidelity to the Catholic Church. In spite of this, the younger, John of Kustrin, as early as 1538, became a Protestant and was followed by his subjects. The elder, Elector Joachim II (1535-70), influenced by his wife, daughter of the Polish king, Sigismund, at first held fast to the old Faith, though allowing Protestant clergymen to minister to several parishes in his territory; finally, at Spandau in 1539, he received the sacrament under both forms at the hands of Matthias von Jagow, Bishop of Brandenburg, likewise a partisan of the new doctrines. His defection was imitated by the majority of the cities in the Mark, Berlin at their head, and by the nobles almost as a body. The Bishops of Havelberg and Lebus alone offered steady resistance. In 1540 the electoral prince, by virtue of his authority as national bishop, issued a new church ordinance which was based on Luther’s doctrine of justification, though preserving many Catholic institutions, such as the episcopal system of organization, and many Catholic ceremonies and customs, even to the Latin Mass, feasts of the Blessed Virgin, processions, etc., that the common people might not realize how the Catholic Faith was being gradually withdrawn from them. Between 1540 and 1542 an ecclesiastical visitation of the whole Mark was undertaken; the secular and regular clergy who had withstood the innovations of the elector were mercilessly expelled; the foundations of religious orders of men were suppressed; convents were converted into asylums for noble maidens; much church property and many endowment funds were confiscated and mortgaged to nobles or cities; and church plate and valuables were melted down. In 1543, the Consistory was constituted the highest spiritual authority. The elector took advantage of the rights obtained through the Religious Peace of Augsburg (1555) to complete the work of the Reformation in his principality. After the death of the last bishops who held fast to the Church—those of Lebus (1555) and Havelberg (1561)—he succeeded in having his eldest grandson, later Prince Elector Joachim Frederick, appointed bishop, thus preparing for the future secularization of the bishoprics. The administration of the Diocese of Brandenburg he confided to his son, John George. This gave the Reformation a complete victory; whatever savored of Catholic teaching was gradually eliminated, and by the beginning of the seventeenth century, Catholic services were absolutely prohibited. Not until the establishment of the Kingdom of Prussia were Catholics again allowed to hold public worship. (For the later history of the Mark of Brandenburg, see Prussia.)

The Diocese of Brandenburg, founded October 1, 948, by Otto the Great, was bounded on the east by the Oder, on the west and south by the Elbe and the Black Elster, and on the north by the Uckermark. The first bishop was Thietmar or Ditmar (d. before 968); his successor, Dodilo, was murdered in 980. The succeeding bishops, after the heathen Wends again conquered Brandenburg (983), lived for the most part as coadjutors to other prelates in various places in Germany. Bishop Wigger, the fifteenth in line of succession (1138-60), was the first who was able to return to his diocese. Like his successors, as late as the middle of the fifteenth century, Bishop Wigger belonged to the Order of Premonstratensians, and formed his cathedral chap-ter from members of his order. Among the bishops of the fifteenth century, Stephan Bodeker (1421-59) distinguished himself by unusual activity along the lines of education and reform. Matthias von Jagow (1527-44), the forty-fourth bishop, was one of the most zealous promoters of the so-called Reformation; although in 1528 he bound himself by oath to the pope and to Elector Joachim I to withstand the Lutheran innovations, he installed a Lutheran preacher in the city of Brandenburg in the same year, released his priests from their vow of celibacy (1535), and introduced the administration of Communion under both forms. After the resignation of his successor, Joachim, Duke of Munsterberg Prince Elector John George was appointed administrator of the diocese, which by that very act was secularized. The cathedral chapter was preserved in name, and consists to the present day of one cathedral dean, one senior and seven cathedral capitulars; these positions are bestowed as sine-cures on Prussian statesmen, generals, theologians, etc.

II. STATISTICS.—Ecclesiastically, the former Mark of Brandenburg, with the city of Berlin and the greater part of the province of Pomerania, forms the “Apostolic Delegature for the Mark Brandenburg and Pomerania“, which is administered by the Prince-Bishop of Breslau as Apostolic Delegate, indirectly through the Dean of St. Hedwig’s in Berlin as delegate of the prince-bishop. According to the census of December 1, 1900, the number of Catholics was 314,287; in 1907 it had reached 443,100. For the work of the ministry, the delegature is divided into 7 archipresbyterates with 82 spiritual charges, 6 curateships, etc. Catholic churches and chapels number 128. The clergy of the delegature include (in addition to the delegate of the prince-bishop, the army bishop for the Prussian troops, and the secretary of the delegation) 160 priests, viz.: 72 priests having charges, 54 chaplains and curates, 19 priests having other appointments, 15 living in community. The following orders of men have foundations (1907): Dominicans 1, with 10 priests and 7 lay brothers; Alexians 1, with 22 brothers; Poor Brothers of St. Francis 1, with 17 brothers. Orders and congregations of women have 42 foundations, with 733 sisters: Ursulines 1, with 24 choir sisters, 1 choir novice, and 12 lay sisters; the Sisters of the Good Shepherd 2, with 135 sisters; Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo 6, with 132 sisters; Dominicans of St. Catherine of Sienna 11, with 152 sisters; the Grey Nuns of St. Elizabeth 17, with 219 sisters; the Sisters of Mary 4, with 58 sisters; the Sisters of St. Joseph 1, with 13 sisters. The orders of women devote themselves almost exclusively to the care of the sick and the poor, and the education of young girls.

The Catholics of the delegature have but one private high school for boys; there are 4 Catholic high schools for girls, one of which is conducted by the Ursulines. There are 30 Catholic primary schools in Berlin and outside of Berlin 52; elsewhere Catholic children are given religious instruction by clergy and secular teachers, in some places in non-Catholic schools (140), elsewhere in churches and chapels, or in private houses. Religious orders of women conduct 15 protectorates for small children, and 9 schools of domestic economy and manual training.

The Catholic charitable institutions of the delegature are almost exclusively under the control of religious congregations of women. There are 10 hospitals and sanatoria, 5 homes for convalescents and those in need of rest, 1 institution for the mentally deranged, 1 maternity home, 29 institutions for visiting nurses, 7 homes for invalids, 6 for the care of small children, 8 creches and homes for children, 3 hospices for men, 9 refuges and boarding-houses for women, 8 homes for girls out of work, 15 institutions for the care of orphans and the instruction of first-communicants, and 4 homes for the shelter and reclamation of girls. It should be noted that inmany cases several of these institutions form one establishment and are under the same management.

The organization of Catholics in the delegature has reached a high stage of development. There are about 300 religious associations. Among the confraternities and rosary unions are: 30 societies of the Holy Family, 50 societies of St. Charles Borromeo, 35 associations of young men and societies of St. Aloysius, 25 congregations of Mary and societies of young women. Among charitable associations, mention may be made of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, with about 40 conferences of men and women, and the Charitable Association (Charitasverband) for Berlin and other centers of charitable work. Among Catholic trade unions are Catholic labor unions, about 60; local societies of Christian workmen, 32; Catholic Gesellenvereine, 8; masters’ unions, 3; apprentices’ unions, 4; mercantile unions, 5; associations of teachers, 5; corporations of students, 10; national bureaus (Volksbureaus), 2, etc. Among political organizations are the National Union for Catholic Germany (Volksverein fur das katholische Deutschland) and the Windthorst leagues. Catholic social organizations are numerous: societies of men, civic associations, choral unions and the like. (For politico-ecclesiastical relations see Prussia.)


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