The German Bishops’ Conference has acknowledged that the churches share responsibility for the enthusiasm at the beginning of the First World War. At the same time, the bishops condemn "excessive nationalism".
Bishops, priests and the faithful had come out in large numbers to the side of those "who welcomed the war as a moral and spiritual renewal," according to a statement released Friday in Bonn to mark the start of the world war exactly 100 years ago. Many church leaders would have been guilty. "They did not sufficiently perceive the suffering of the victims of the war and followed national delusion."
Within the church, however, there have always been believers who have stood up for peace and reconciliation, the bishops write. The then Pope Benedict XV. The war’s destruction, suffering and horror for the population were at the center of his peace exhortations.
The dimensions of the world war are "still shocking today," the statement reads under the title "Overcoming the egoism of states – developing the order of peace". Not least, the use of poison gas had contributed to a considerable brutalization of the fighting.
Primal catastrophe of the 20th century. Century
The First World War began on 28. July 1914 with Austria’s declaration of war on Serbia. It is considered the "primordial catastrophe of the 20. Century". The German Empire came into being on 1. August 1914 entered the war. The four-year military conflict between Germany and Austria-Hungary on the one side and Great Britain, France and Russia on the other cost the lives of some 17 million people. The world war ended in November 1918 with the German-Austrian surrender.
It was only after World War II that Europe gave an answer to the questions that World War I had brought to consciousness, the Catholic bishops’ text says. They commemorate the reconciliation between Germans and French and between Germans and Poles. With European integration, a peace order has been created "that gives precedence to law over strength".
The retrospective of the war should be an incentive to "avoid any relapse into a unilaterally understood nation-state". Earlier, the Protestant Church had also expressed shame over the church’s failure in the outbreak of World War I.
Failure of theology
The church and theology in Germany have failed in the face of the task of contributing to peace and reconciliation and becoming advocates for humanity and life, according to a word from the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) published in Hanover earlier this week. Lessons should be learned from this.
On the anniversary of the beginning of the war on 1. August give a Europe-wide minute of silence. On 3. August, German President Joachim Gauck and French President Francois Hollande visit the Hartmannsweilerkopf (Vieil Armand) near Colmar to commemorate World War I. On the battlefield in the Vosges Mountains in Alsace, between 1914 and 1918, nearly 30.000 German and French soldiers.