Irish Hierarchy’s Appeal for German Catholic Refugees
The Irish hierarchy issued the following appeal in 1954 at their October meeting in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth:
Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers and dearly beloved brethren:
We desire to draw your attention to the wretched condition, especially from the spiritual standpoint, of the millions of Catholic refugees now in Western Germany.
The Potsdam Agreement in 1945 permitted the Russians to expel 14,000,000 people, mostly Germans, from the territories which came under their control at the end of the war; and of these about 9,000,000 made their way to Western Germany. This number has since been increased by a further 2,000,000, so that there are altogether in Western Germany about 11,000,000 refugees, of whom half are Catholics. The material conditions under which these refugees have to live are indeed wretched, but even more pitiable is the plight, from the spiritual standpoint, of those of them who are Catholics. Considerably more than half their priests died from the hardships which they had to endure during the period of migration, and of those that remain many are old or in delicate health and all are without material resources. The result is that large numbers of these poor Catholics are deprived of the ministrations of religion and of the consolations which Holy Mass and the sacraments could bring them.
Belgian and other Catholics have already done much to alleviate the needs of their refugee brethren in Germany; and we too, deeply sensible of their pitiable condition, have undertaken to help in founding a Mission House in Western Germany, from which priests will go out to celebrate Mass for refugees, to administer the sacraments to them and to give them sermons and instructions.
We ask you, Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers and dearly beloved brethren, to co-operate with us in this charitable work. These refugee Catholics are our brothers in Christ, they are bound to us by a bond more sacred and precious than that of humanity or fatherland; and they are in dire distress. We appeal to you then to pray that God may alleviate their condition, material as well as spiritual, and join with us in helping towards the establishment of a Mission House. Contributions for this purpose may be given to the parochial clergy or sent directly to the bishop of the diocese. No formal collection will be made.