The National Concordat

The National Concordat
The July 20, 1933 agreement between Germany and the Vatican


His HOLINESS, POPE Plus XI., and the President of Germany, being motivated by the same desire to strengthen and further the friendly relations between the Holy See and Germany,

Having the will to regulate in a permanent and mutually satisfactory way the relations between the Holy See and the State throughout Germany,

Have resolved to enter into a solemn agreement which will complement the concordats closed with certain individual German States and secure for the rest a consistent treatment of the pertinent questions, according to Principles laid down herein.

To this end, His Holiness Pope Plus XI. has named His Eminence the Cardinal Eugen Pacelli, His Secretary of State, as His plenipotentiary, and the President of the German Reich has named the Vice Chancellor of the German Reich, Franz von Papen, who, having exchangedtheir respective credentials and found them to be in good and proper form, have agreed upon the following articles:

Article I

The German Reich guarantees the freedom of creed and of public worship to the Catholic religion.

It acknowledges the right of the Catholic Church–within the limits of the law of the land,–to administer its own affairs and to make laws and regulations binding upon its membership within the jurisdiction of the Church.

Article 2

The concordats established with Bavaria (1924), Prussia (1919), and Baden (1932) remain in force and the rights and privileges of the Catholic Church in the states named remain intact. For the other states the provisions of this Concordat apply in toto. The latter are also binding on the three states named in so far as they refer to matters not regulated in the separate concordats or in so far as they complement the existing terms.

In the future, concordats with separate states will be entered into only with the consent of the German Government.

Article 3

In order to cultivate the good relations between the Holy See and the German Reich, an apostolic nuntius will reside in the German capital, as heretofore, and an ambassador of the Reich will reside at the Holy See.

Article 4

The Holy See enjoys complete freedom in its correspondence with the Bishops, the clergy and the other membership of the Catholic Church in Germany. The same holds good for the Bishops and other diocesan authorities in their intercourse with the believers in all matters concerning their pastoral office.

Notices, regulations, pastoral letters, official diocesan papers and other enactments for the spiritual leadership of the believers, which are promulgated by the church authorities within their jurisdiction, may be published without hindrance and be brought to the attention of the membership in the forms previously in use.

Article 5

In the exercise of their spiritual office the priesthood enjoys the protection of the State in the same manner as state officials. The State will prosecute insults to their persons or in their capacity as clergymen, as well as disturbances of public worship, according to the general state laws, and when necessary it will grant the protection of the civil authorities.

Article 6

Clergy and members of conventual orders are freed from the obligation to accept public office and other responsibilities not reconcilable with the provisions of canonical law, with the priesthood, or the rules of their Order, respectively. This applies particularly to the office of bailiff, juror, member of the board of taxation, or of the courts of finance.

Article 7

In order to accept position or office in the State or in a corporation of a governmental character, clergymen require the “nihil obstat” of their chief diocesan officer as well as of the corresponding public official. The “nihil obstat” may be revoked at any time on important grounds of ecclesiastical interest.

Article 8

The salaries of clergymen are freed from confiscation on the same terms as those of national and state officials.

Article 9

Clergymen cannot be questioned by judicial or other authorities for information concerning facts confided to them in the exercise of their spiritual guidance and which therefore come under the duty of pastoral reticence.

Article 10

The use of clerical dress or that of the dress of a conventual order by laymen, or by clergymen or members of Orders to whom such use has been definitely forbidden, and the civil authorities duly notified of this fact, is subject to the same penalties as the misuse of the military uniform.

Article 11

The present diocesan organisation and circumscription of the Catholic Church in Germany will remain. Any future establishment of a new bishopric or church province or other changes of the diocesan limits remain, in so far as they concern changes within the boundaries of the separate states, subject to mutual agreement with the state authorities. In the case of establishments or changes which affect several states, the agreement is arrived at with the national government which is then left to make the arrangements with the affected states. The same is true of changes in the boundaries of the church provinces, in so far as they may involve several states. These terms do not apply to shifting of church boundaries solely in the interest of local pastoral administration.

A reorganisation of the diocesan system and circumscription will be the subject of discussion with the Holy See on the part of the German Government.

Article 12

Notwithstanding the provisions of Article XI ecclesiastical offices can be freely established or changed if no appropriations from the civic funds are sought. The co-operation of the State in the formation and reorganisation of parishes takes place in accordance with the outlines laid down in agreements with the Bishops and for the greatest possible uniformity of which the national government will make recommendations to the state authorities.

Article 13

Catholic parishes, congregational associations, and diocesan associations, the Episcopal Sees, the bishoprics and chapters, the conventua! orders and religious fraternities, as well as the institutions, foundations and properties of the Catholic Church, retain (respectively, receive) the status of public corporations under the general law. They remain public corporations in so far as they have been such in the past, the others may receive equal rights according to the general civil law.

Article 14

As a matter of principle, the Church has the right freely to appoint all church offices and benefices without the co-operation of the State or of the civil communities, in so far as other provisions have not been made in previous concordats under Article II. This rule applies to the suffragan bishoprics of Rottenburg and Mainz, the bishopric Meissen, and the Metropolitan See of Freiburg on the Rhein. The rule holds also for the first two suffragan bishoprics regarding the appointments of cathedral chapter positions and the regulations of the right of patronage. Furthermore, there is accord on the following points:

1. Catholic clergymen wile hold an ecclesiastical office in Germany, or exercise pastoral or educational functions, must

a. be German citizens,

b. have graduated from a German higher educational institution,

c. have studied at least three years in the field of theology and philosophy in a German state school, a German ecclesiastical academy, or a papal college in Rome.


2. The Bull for the appointment of Archbishops, Bishops, Coadjutors ***** jure successionis or of a Praelatus nullis will not be issued until the name of the appointee is submitted to the representative of the national government in the respective state and it has been ascertained that no objections of a general political nature exist.


By agreement of Church and State, Paragraph I, Sections a, b, and c, may be disregarded or set aside.

Article 15

Conventual orders and religious associations, save for the special provisions of the paragraph following, are not subject to restrictions on the part of the State, either regarding their number, selection of their members, activity in spiritual service, education, care of the sick, and charitable work, or in the management of their affairs and the.; administration of their property.

Ecclesiastical heads of Orders, having their headquarters in Germany, must be German citizens. Heads of Orders or provincial organisations whose headquarters lie outside Germany, have the right of visitation of the branches lying within Germany.

The Holy See will endeavour so to organise the existing conventual houses that as far as possible they may not be under government of foreign heads. Exceptions may be agreed upon with the German national government in ; cases where the small number of branches makes a special : German province seem inadvisable or where an historic or administratively proven provincial organisation should be permitted to continue.

Article 16

Before the Bishops take possession of their dioceses, they are to take an an oath fealty either to the national representative in the states, or the president of the Reich, respectively, 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. I swear and promise to honour the constitutional government and to cause the clergy of my diocese to honour it. In the performance of my spiritual office and in my solicitude for the welfare and , interest of the German State, I will try to avoid every detrimental act which might endanger it.”

Article 17

The property and other rights of the public corporations, institutions, foundations and associations of the Catholic Church vested in their possessions are secured according to the general laws of the land. For no reason whatever may a building dedicated to Public worship be torn down without the previous consent of the proper church authority.

Article 18

In case the State finds it necessary to abrogate the performance of obligations undertaken by it toward the Church, either based on law, agreement or special charter, the reasons for such abrogation should be discussed amicably with the Holy See before they are finally worked out, in order that a friendly agreement may be reached. Traditional rights are to be considered as titles in law. The abrogation must be compensated for by an equivalent to the claimant.

Article 19

The Catholic theological faculties in the state schools will remain. Their relation to the church authorities will be governed by the respective concordats and the terms set forth in the special closing addenda, and with due consideration of the rules of the Church in this connection. The national government will endeavour to secure a uniform set of regulations for all the Catholic faculties in Germany.

Article 20

The Church has the right, in so far as other agreements are not in existence, to establish theological and philosophical schools for the training of its clergy, these to be dependent solely on the church authorities, if no state subsidies are requested.

The establishment, management and administration of the theological seminaries, under the general limitations, of the civil code is exclusively the prerogative of the church authorities.

Article 21

Catholic instruction in the grammar, high, trade, and continuation schools is a regular part of the curriculum and is taught in accordance with the principles of the Catholic Church. It will be the special care of religious instruction to inculcate patriotic, civic and social consciousness and sense of duty in the spirit of the Christian faith and moral code, as is the case with the instruction in other subjects. The syllabus and selection of textbooks for religious instruction will be arranged in consultation with the church authorities. The church authorities have the right to investigate whether the pupils are receiving religious instruction in accordance with the teachings and requirements of the Church, the opportunities for such investigation to be agreed upon with the school authorities.

Article 22

In the appointment of Catholic religious instructors an understanding will be arrived at between the Bishop and the state government. Teachers that have been declared unfit for further exercise of their teaching functions either because of their teachings or moral conduct, may not be employed as teachers of religion as long as the obstacle remains, in the judgment of the Bishop.

Article 23

The retention and establishment of Catholic schools remains secure. In all parishes in which parents request it, Catholic grammar schools will be established if the number of pupils and the general school situation in the community seem to justify a school run in accordance with the requirements of the State covering schools in general.

Article 24

In all Catholic grammar schools only such teachers will be employed as are members of the Catholic Church and guarantee the fulfilment of the special requirements of a Catholic School.

Within the general arrangements for the training of teachers, provisions will be made which will guarantee a training of Catholic teachers in accordance with the special requirements of the Catholic school.

Article 25

Conventual orders and religious communities are entitled to establish and conduct private schools, subject to the general educational laws. These private schools, will have the same standing as the state schools in so far as they fulfill the curricular requirements for the latter.

For members of conventual orders or religious communities the general requirements for teachers and appointments to the grammar, continuation or high schools, are applicable.

Article 26

With reservations looking toward a later comprehensive regulation of the marriage laws, it is understood that except in cases of the critical illness of one of the engaged couple, or in the case of severe moral emergency, the presence of which must be confirmed by the proper church authority, the church marriage ceremony may precede the civil ceremony. In such cases the pastor is in duty bound to notify the registrar’s office at once.

Article 27

The Church will accord to the German Army (Reichswehr) provision for the spiritual guidance of its officers, officials and personnel, as well as their families.

The administration of the pastoral care for the army is to be vested in the Army Bishop. His appointment is made by the Holy See after the latter has got into touch with the national government in order to select an appropriate candidate who is mutually agreeable.

The appointment of military pastors and other military clergymen will be made by the Army Bishop in concurrence with the proper national authority. The Army Bishop can appoint only such pastors as have the permission of the diocesan bishop to enter military religious service and have received a certificate to that effect. Military chaplains have the standing of regular pastors for the troops assigned to them, and for their personnel. Detailed regulations for the organisation of the Catholic chaplains service will be laid down by an apostolic brief.

The regulation of the official aspects of the chaplain’s service will be arranged by the national government.

Article 28

In hospitals, prisons and other institutions of public benevolence the Church will have the right of visitation subject to the rules of the institutions. If regular ecclesiastical supervision is arranged for in such institutions, and if Pastors must be appointed as state or other public officials, such appointments will be made in accord with the church authorities.

Article 29

The Catholic members of racial minorities living within the boundaries of Germany will be treated as regards the liberty of worship and instruction in their mother tongue, in accordance with the treatment received by German minorities in the respective country.

Article 30

On Sundays and holy days special prayers, conforming to the general liturgy, will be offered for the welfare of the German Reich, and its people, in episcopal, parish, and conventual churches and chapels.

Article 31

Such Catholic organisations and associations as serve a purely religious, cultural or charitable purpose, and as such are subject to the church authorities, will be protected in their establishments and activities.

Catholic organisations and associations which serve in addition to the religious, cultural or charitable purposes, social or professional objectives, shall, without prejudice to civil bodies of a similar character, enjoy the protection of Article XXXI, paragraph I, in so far as they guarantee that their activity lies outside any political party.

The determination of the organisations and associations which fall under the terms of this article will be a matter of agreement between the national government and the German episcopate.

In so far as the Reich and the states sponsor athletic or other young people’s organisations, care will be taken that their members are enabled to fulfil their religious obligations on Sundays and holy days and that they are not encouraged to any acts not in accord with their religious and moral opinions and duties.

Article 32

In consideration of the special situation existing in Germany, and in view of guaranty provided by this Concordat of legislation which will safeguard the rights and privileges of the Roman Catholic Church in the nation and its component states, the Holy See will prescribe regulations which will prohibit clergymen and members of conventual orders from membership in political parties and from working on their behalf. (Cf. Supplementary Protocol.)

Article 33

All matters appertaining to clerical persons or ecclesiastical affairs which have not been treated in the foregoing articles will be treated according to canonical law.

Should differences of opinion arise regarding the interpretation of execution of any article of this Concordat, the Holy See and the German Reich will achieve a friendly solution in mutual agreement.

Article 34

This Concordat, whose German and Italian text shall have equal force, shall be ratified and the certificates of ratifications exchanged as soon as possible. It is 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





The Supplementary Protocol. At the signing of the Concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich the duly accredited plenipotentiaries have adjoined the following explanations, which form an integral part of the Concordat itself.

In re:

Article 3: The Apostolic Nuntius to the German Reich, in accordance with the exchange of notes between the Apostolic Nuntiate in Berlin and the Foreign Office, on the 11th and 27th of March respectively, shall be the Doyen of the diplomatic corps in Berlin.

Article 13: It is understood that the church retains the right to levy church taxes (on its membership).

Article 14 Paragraph 2: It is understood that when objections of a general political nature exist, they shall be presented within the shortest possible time. If after 20 days, such statement has not been made, the Holy See will be justified in assuming that there are no objections to the candidate. The names of the persons in question will be held confidential until the announcement of the appointment. A State veto shall not be required to assign reasons.

Article 17: In so far as public buildings or properties are used for church purposes, these are retained, subject to existing agreements.

Article 19, Paragraph 2: This is founded at the time of the signing of this Concordat on the apostolic constitution: ” Deus Scientiarum Dominus “, of May 24th, 1931, and the Instruction of July 7, I932

Article 20: The high schools and colleges now under the administration of the Church are recognized as important church institutions per se, and as integral parts of the diocesan organisations.

Article 24: As soon as private institutions are able to meet the requirements of the new educational code for the training of teachers, the existing institutions of the conventual orders and communities will be given due consideration.

Article 26: A severe moral emergency exists when there are insuperable or disproportionately difficult and costly obstacles in the way of securing the customary civil documents at the right time.

Article 27, Paragraph 1: Catholic officers, officials and personnel, as well as their families do not belong to the local parishes and do not contribute to their financial burdens.

Paragraph 4: The publication of the apostolic brief will take place after consultation with the national government.

Article 28: In urgent cases the pastor is to be admitted at all times.

Article 29: After the German government has indicated its willingness to the compromise regarding the non-German minorities, the Holy See declares,–pursuant to its principles regarding the right of employment of the mother tongue in religious instruction and in Catholic Societies,–that it will have in mind similar protective clauses for German minorities when arranging concordats with other countries.

Article 31, Paragraph 4: The principles laid down in this article hold good also for the national labour service.

Article 32: It is understood that similar provisions for nonparticipation in politics will govern members of other creeds also. The conduct enjoined upon the pastors and members of conventual orders in Germany does not entail any limitation of the prescribed preaching and interpretation of the dogmatic and moral teachings and principles of the Church.

In Vatican City, July 20th, 1933.