Already the last conference of the German hierarchy had set up an episcopal committee composed of the three cardinals and of the bishops of Berlin and Munster, in order to start new negotiations with the State authorities on the main points of dispute.
When the laws of December 1 were published, Cardinal Bertram asked Herr Hitler to receive the episcopal committee before the extraordinary Episcopal Conference of Fulda.
It was hoped that Hitler would reveal some of his real intentions, so that the hierarchy would know exactly how matters stood and if there was a chance of a satisfactory compromise. Hitler, however, refused to see the Episcopal Committee, " for lack of time," so that the Fulda Conference was not as well informed as Cardinal Bertram had wished.
Almost jrnmediately after the Fulda Conference, the three cardinals and two bishops forming the ,special .Episcopal Committee, went to Rome. Count Preysing, Bishop of Berlin, who made some final efforts in Berlin government circles, went by air to reach his colleagues in time. The German cardinals and bishops were received by the Holy Father and had long talks with Cardinal Pacelli. The fact that the sudden visit to Rome was made at this time of the year and in spite of the Holy Father's serious illness proves the extraordinary significance of the conversations which have been going on these last days in the Vatican.
It is feared that some irrevocal_le measure may be taken regarding German schools in the near future, for instance in the Reichstag meeting of January 30. Good omens are non-existent. The New Year pastoral letter of the German hierarchy which made strong efforts to dispose the Nazis more favourably by paying tribute to Hitler's merits in the fight against Bolshevism, met with the same hostile silence in the German Press as former pastorals, and once again even the ecclesiastic weeklies were forbidden to publish it.
The Fulda Episcopal Conference drafted and adopted two declarations both dealing with the school problem.
As they are short, we publish them be
low in full. It is likely also that a new memorandum has been drafted which is to be sent to Herr Hitler, and other pas
toral letters may have been adopted which are to be made public only after some time. Here are the two episcopal declar
"In a time of great difficulty we German bishops, gatthPred near the tomb of St. Boniface, have been considering with due pastoral gratitude all those, individuals and organizations, priests and laymen, men and women, who have done their best. in an unshakable courage. for the continuing existence of the confessional school. They have accomplished an important day of their Christian conscience, but equally a commandment of loyalty to the German law.
"That loyalty they owe in the same way as the whole German Reich to the Concordat which says clearly in its article 23: ' The existence of confessional schools and the possibility of establishing new ones remains guaranteed.' Therefore we German bishops deplore again the suppression of, confessional sehools jU certaiu parts of this country, a suppression which was achieved by means of so-called plebiscites of the parents for which there was no legal basis and where in many cases the liberty of vote did not exist. We leave it to the justice of History to examine impartially how those alleged majorities were reached and to judge the procedure accordingly.
'"I'aught by such experiences. we German bishops, as your pastors appointed by God, ask oar diocesans again not to grow weak in the defence of the confessional school, but to remain firm, and not to succumb to certain promises and menaces. Defend your holy rights in a strong determination and a Catholic firmness of character. As in our other religious fights. also in this heavy One the whole Catholic world follows with an active sympathy.
"In this defence we are standing, as we school as no support of the Christian faith, but even. as unequivocal declarations prove, an efficacious means to suffocate the Catholic faith and Christianity itself in our youthi and endanger the welfare of our whole German nation.
" Those who affirm that the so-called common school is unchanged are wrong and deceive you. The new common school is quite different from the Christian non-denominational school as it has been existing in several parts of Germany. Therefore those who fail to do their Christian duty in the fight of defence, or who as Catholic fathers or edueatOrs uphold the common school, are either ignorant of the ultimate aims of our enemies, or who cede in an un-Christian and un-German weakness of character to material motives or io importunity and violence, carry a heavy responsibility to their own children and the whole Christian youth; to their conscience; to our Mother the Holy Church and, finally, to God, their eternal judge."
The second declaration which will be read on the following Sunday from all Catholic pulpits in Germany reads as follows;
" We German hishope draw the attention of the faithful, and in particular of Catholic parents, to the fact that the Retell Concordat, which lift8 been made e law of this country by the Reieit government itself, guarantees the freedom of conscience es well as the existence of the Catholic confessional gelled and confirnts the right of existence to the schools run by religious congregations.
" tivery pressure. which means a limitation of the freedom of conscience, is not only opposed to the solemn Concordat concluded hy the lithrer and chancellor, but also to the spirit of a law of the Reich government.
" All Catholics, including those who are State officials and employees, are therefore entitled to reject courageously and delerminedly every oppression of conseienyt, whether they are asked to leave the Church or whether they are compelled to take their children away from a Catholic school.
" it. is unlawful to construe as an illegal and anti-State attitude the determination of an official 1.o cling to the confessional school guaranteed in a law of the Reich. Therefore the German bishops expect all Catholic parents to cling to the freedom of conscience and insist upon their rights to send their children to a Catholic school."