Reinhard Marx

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His Eminence

Reinhard Marx
Cardinal, Archbishop of Munich and Freising
Kardinal Reinhard Marx.jpg
Marx in 2010
Archdiocese Munich and Freising
Appointed30 November 2007
Installed2 February 2008
Predecessor Friedrich Wetter
Other post(s)Cardinal-Priest of S. Corbiniano
President of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community
Coordinator of Council for the Economy
Member of the Council of Cardinals
Ordination2 June 1979
by  Johannes Joachim Degenhardt
Consecration21 September 1996
by Johannes Joachim Degenhardt
Created cardinal20 November 2010
by Benedict XVI
Personal details
Birth nameReinhard Marx
Born (1953-09-21) 21 September 1953 (age 67)
Geseke, Germany
DenominationRoman Catholic
Previous post(s)
MottoUbi Spiritus Domini Ibi Libertas
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom
Coat of arms Coat of arms of Reinhard Marx.svg

Reinhard Marx (born 21 September 1953) is a German cardinal of the Catholic Church. He serves as the Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Pope Benedict XVI elevated Marx to the cardinalate in a consistory in 2010.



Born in Geseke, North Rhine-Westphalia, Marx was ordained to the priesthood, for the Archdiocese of Paderborn, by Archbishop Johannes Joachim Degenhardt on 2 June 1979. He obtained a doctorate in theology from the University of Bochum in 1989. [1]

On 23 July 1996, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Paderborn and Titular Bishop of Petina by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on 21 September, [1] his forty-third birthday, from Archbishop Degenhardt, with Bishops Hans Drewes and Paul Consbruch serving as co-consecrators.

On 20 December 2001 he was named Bishop of Trier, the oldest diocese in Germany. [2]

Styles of
Reinhard Marx
Coat of arms of Reinhard Marx.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Munich and Freising

On 30 November 2007 Pope Benedict XVI appointed Marx metropolitan archbishop of Munich and Freising, [3] a position that Benedict held from 1977 to 1981. On 2 February 2008, Marx was installed as Archbishop of Munich and Freising in the Munich Frauenkirche. He became first Cardinal-Priest of San Corbiniano on 20 November 2010. [4] Marx's title is that of Saint Corbinian, who was the first bishop of Freising and of whom Marx is the successor.

Marx currently serves as head of the committee for social issues at the German Bishops' Conference.[ citation needed ] In addition to his duties as archbishop of Munich, on 11 December 2010 Marx was named by Pope Benedict as a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education for a five-year renewable term. [5] On 29 December 2010 he was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. [6]

On 7 March 2012, he was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. [7]

On 22 March 2012, the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community elected him its president.

He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2013 papal conclave that elected Pope Francis. [8]

On 13 April 2013 he was appointed to a Council of Cardinal Advisers, a group established by Pope Francis, exactly a month after his election, to advise him and to study a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, Pastor Bonus. [9]

On the question whether the Church should allow people who have divorced and attempted remarriage to partake in Holy Communion, it came to disagreements with Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the head of the Congregation of the Faith at the Vatican, in November 2013. Marx called for a wide debate on the treatment of the Catholic Church with those who have attempted remarriage.

When the Vatican suspended Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst in 2013 over his alleged lavish spending, Marx was also criticized as he spent around $11 million renovating the archbishop's residence and another $13 million for a guesthouse in Rome. [10]

On 19 February 2014 he was confirmed as a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches until the end of his current five-year term. [11]

On 12 March 2014 Marx was also elected chairman of the German Bishops' Conference as successor of Robert Zollitsch. He was elected in Münster by the German bishops and auxiliary bishops only in the fifth round of voting in which a simple majority is sufficient. He served in this capacity until his replacement Georg Bätzing was elected on 3 March 2020. [12]

On 15 October 2020, Pope Francis renewed Marx's term on the Council of Cardinal Advisers. [13]

In May 2021, Marx offered his resignation as archbishop of Munich to Pope Francis, citing his responsibility for the response to the sexual abuse crisis. On 10 June 2021, the pope declined his resignation. He accepted Marx's description of clerical abuse as a "catastrophe" that requires every bishop to engage with it personally, to "put their own flesh on the line". He wrote: "We will not be saved by investigations or the power of institutions. The prestige of our Church which tends to conceal her sins will not save us; neither the power of money nor the opinion of the media will save us." Instead he proposed all "confess our nakedness" and admit to sin and ask for "the grace of shame". He compared Marx's statement to Peter's confession to Christ: "Turn away from me for I am a sinful man" and countered with Christ's exhortation to Peter: "Feed my sheep." [14] [lower-alpha 1]

President of the Bishops' Conference of the European Community

He was elected as President of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community on 22 March 2012.

After Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, Marx issued a statement saying: "This decision of the British voters should of course be respected, even if we, as COMECE, find it extremely regrettable." [16] [17] He praised the EU's "project of community and solidarity" but also stated: "We need to 'rethink' Europe in some way. ... we will only be able to build a good future if the nations of Europe are united. It also raises the question on the way to achieve the 'true European humanism' to which Pope Francis has encouraged the Europeans." [16] [17]

Despite protests by Catholics in Germany, including the Catholic Workers Movement, Marx spoke positively of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. He said: "Given today’s huge social and environmental challenges, I won’t have a good feeling if Europe pulls out of shaping globalization and leaves the issues and actions to others". [18]

Following the Christmas market attack in Berlin in December 2016, Marx said "The news from Berlin have deeply shocked me. The violence on the Christmas market is the opposite of what visitors were seeking. My compassion goes to the relatives of the dead and injured. For all of them I will pray." [19]

In April 2017, Marx met with Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, and he hailed the great achievements that had been made in Europe in recent history. In a joint statement with Anglican bishop Christopher Hill, Marx said: "In the decades since the founding of the European Union and its predecessor institutions, Europeans have benefitted from historic periods of peace, the expansion of democracy on the continent, and increased freedom to work, travel, and study,' and 'We believe more than ever in the European project and believe that a common path resting on shared values is the best path, ... A united Europe brings about peace in a world where peace cannot be taken for granted." [20]

In May 2017, the leaders of COMECE met in Rome in relation to a high-level congress to take place in Rome on the theme 'Rethinking Europe'. On the occasion, Marx stated that putting the human person back at the centre of European public policy was, along with dying to oneself, the church's message and he further stated, "I see, when I meet politicians and 'other' people, that they are open to discuss. ...We cannot [do] politics, we are not politicians ... but we can enable the way." [21]

On 2 December 2018, Marx attended the "Pulse of Europe" meeting in Munich and made statements in favour of greater European unity. He said "Nationalism means war. Germany first? That is egotism and won’t get us any further" and "The Romanian poor and the Italian unemployed are all our problem". He also said he did not understand why no one was speaking of United States of Europe any longer. [22]

Contribution to global Synod of Bishops

Marx participated in the Synod of Bishops on the Family in 2014 and 2015. [23] In 2014, addressing a question raised on the family, he argued that church doctrine can change over time, and "doesn't depend on the spirit of time but can develop over time. ...Saying that the doctrine will never change is a restrictive view of things," Marx later clarified at a Vatican press conference: "The core of the Catholic Church remains the Gospel, but have we discovered everything? This is what I doubt." [23]

Marx has supported the view that no sacramental[ sic ] second marriage is possible within Catholic teaching, but he wanted it to be possible that people whose marriages had "failed" could still be accepted within the church. [24] He supported Cardinal Walter Kasper's proposal that Catholics who have divorced and attempted remarriage outside the Church be admitted to Communion, emphasizing that it would be applied to individual cases: "Not for no one, and not for everyone." [25]

Though he once suggested that the German church might go in a different direction than the Synod, Marx insisted at the 2015 Synod that he would abide by whatever the Pope decided. He said "the Church is the only institution in the world that can reach unanimous agreement. Thank God we have the pope. We bishops do not have to decide. Church unity is not in danger. And once the pope has decided, we will abide by his decision." [26]

When several cardinals who believed that no circumstances allow for someone who had attempted remarriage to receive communion published a set of questions asking for clarifications of Amoris Laetitia, Marx objected. He said that the exhortation was not ambiguous as some[ who? ] said, and that it did in fact allow for people to receive the Eucharist after attempted remarriage under certain circumstances. [27] In February 2017, Marx, when speaking of the events surrounding this controversy, stated: "We have discussions in the church, normal discussions, tensions. It will be forever like this." Marx also said he believed that support for the Pope within the church was substantial. [28]

Coordinator for Council of the Economy

In 2014, Pope Francis created a new agency for organizing the economic affairs of the Holy See called the 'Secretariat for the Economy'. [29] In coordination with this, the Pope also created a council of bishops and laity who would oversee the secretariat known as the Council for the Economy. Marx was named as coordinator of this council. [30]

The Vatican reported a budget deficit of 70 million Euros for the year 2018, which was double the previous year. Marx commented on this situation at the time that the deficit could be resolved within a year or two. In October 2019, he said "We have to go forward, otherwise I cannot see how to sign a budget with a structural deficit," and "But that is a way we can go in several years. That is not a catastrophe." Vatican revenues and finances went into further collapse in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. [31]

In February 2020, cardinal Marx announced he would not have accepted a new six-year mandate as head of the German Bishops' Conference, due to his age of 66. [32] Two months later, Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, the head of the Vatican's Dicastery for Finances, and Marx sent a letter to Vatican offices to get them to drastically cut costs and revise their budgets for 2020. The contents of the letter called for a reduction of travel throughout the year, a cancellation of all conferences, meeting and ad limina visits, radical limits on consultancy and overtime, as well as to postpone all work to the following year which wasn't absolutely necessary. [33]


Homosexuality, gay rights, and the Church

In 2011, Marx was reported as saying that the Catholic Church "has not always adopted the right tone" toward LGBT people. He went on to add that, while he cannot officially bless a union between two people of the same sex, he can (and implicitly will) pray for their relationship if asked. [34]

In 2014, Marx responded in an interview to the issues under consideration at the Synod of Bishops concerning the Church's treatment of people that are gay: "I have the impression that we have a lot of work to do in the theological field, not only related to the question of divorce, but also the theology of marriage. I am astonished that some can say, "Everything is clear" on this topic. Things are not clear. It is not about church doctrine being determined by modern times. It is a question of aggiornamento , to say it in a way that the people can understand, and to always adapt our doctrine to the Gospel, to theology, in order to find in a new way the sense of what Jesus said, the meaning of the tradition of the church and of theology and so on. There is a lot to do". [35] He went on to say, "Take the case of two homosexuals who have been living together for 35 years and taking care of each other, even in the last phases of their lives. How can I say that this has no value?" [36]

At the 2015 Synod in Rome, Marx urged his fellow bishops that, "We must make it clear that we do not only judge people according to their sexual orientation. ...If a same-sex couple are faithful, care for one another and intend to stay together for life God won't say 'All that doesn't interest me, I'm only interested in your sexual orientation.'" [26]

Marx supports legal recognition for same-sex unions arguing that there are positive elements that can be found and supported in same-sex relationships, but is against same-sex marriage. In 2015, in Germany he stated: "Human dignity is not state-made, it’s not made by the constitution, which is why neither the constitution nor the state can pass judgment on it. ...And this also applies to the topic of marriage and the family." [37]

In June 2016, on a visit to Ireland, Marx argued that the church and society had harmed gay people in the past and should publicly apologise. [38]

In July 2017, in an interview with the Augsburger Allgemeine in Germany, Marx commented on the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Germany and said that it was not a concern for the church. He said that church teaching cannot be moulded into the laws of a secular state and he said: "In a secular society, the state must make laws that are valid for everyone". He also lamented that the Catholic church in Germany had not done more in the past to fight against laws that criminalized homosexual activity in Germany. [39]

In February 2018, it was widely reported that Marx said in an interview with German journalists that blessing of same-sex unions is possible in Catholic churches in Germany, [40] [41] but later clarified that he had not implied this and was misunderstood, stating that there merely could be "spiritual encouragement." [42] In December 2019 Marx said again that same-sex couples can be blessed. [43]

Abortion and euthanasia

Marx is an active opponent of abortion in Germany and has also spoken against physician-assisted suicide as well as embryonic stem cell research. On the occasion of the 2015 pro-life march in Germany, he publicly stated: "As Christians we share the conviction that the inviolable dignity of every human being has its origin in God, the Creator of all life." [44]

However, he has been criticized by some anti-abortion groups for signalling his approval to issue the 'morning-after pill' in German Catholic hospitals, which could potentially destroy a viable embryo.

Church role in the modern world

In a visit to Ireland in June 2016, Marx said that Christianity is the 'religion of the future'. He quoted Ratzinger's (later Pope Benedict XVI) speech in Paris in 2000, when Ratzinger said that Christianity was not a faith that dealt with 'magic things' but with the real world. Marx said that Christianity had a role in making the world a better place. He said that in past times there were occasions when the church was on 'the wrong side' of various issues, but that in the future it must rely on its own social doctrine and Christian anthropology as a source from which to help make a new and better society, which also embraced the marginalized. He also expressed concern over a tendency by some to want to go back to a dream of society where things were 'more cohesive and simpler', and that future debates would be about identity and security rather than freedom. [45]

On the occasion of the death of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in June 2017, Marx praised Kohl (who was a practicing Catholic) as an example of Christian witness in the modern world. Marx praised Kohl's work for German reunification, work for democracy and human rights, work for European integration, and his work to create a social market economy in Germany based on church teaching. Marx said of Kohl: "The Church in Germany is grateful for the Christian testimony of Helmut Kohl. Wherever the values of a free society were trampled on in the world, he pledged that these values be respected. He wanted and knew how to show his Christian convictions in Europe. " [46]

In October 2017, Marx along with other bishops and European politicians attended a conference in Rome entitled "Thinking Europe: A Christian Contribution to the Future of the European Project" that was meant to discuss the role of religion in the future of Europe. On the occasion, Marx commented that 20 years prior, many people thought that religion would disappear from society, but that that was not the case. He stated that the great fear for religion was not that it would disappear but rather "it will be instrumentalized for other reasons, for political reasons. That will be perhaps the great fear for the 21st century." [47]

In 2018, after Pope Francis had endorsed Pope Benedict's rejection of the "Marxist state", Marx told an interviewer that without Karl Marx "there would not be any Catholic social doctrine" and that Marx the 19th-century sociologist is not responsible for the crimes of those who claim to be inspired by him. [48]

On 1 September 2018 the anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, Marx visited the Polish city of Gdansk and paid tribute to the Polish Solidarity movement supported by the church that had fought against communism in the 1980s. In an interview on the occasion, he spoke about future of Europe and said that the church was in favour of European unification and against Nationalism. On the occasion, he said, "Faith tells us we belong to a human family. Patriotism is good, but nationalism is not Catholic. I agree with Franz-Josef Strauss, who has always said: Bavaria is our home, Germany is our fatherland, Europe is our future." [49]

While attending the Synod on Youth in Rome in October 2018, Marx said that Pope Francis had decided to use synods as a way of moving the church forward and that it was important for the church to accompany young adults at their sensitive age, otherwise the church would be "a lost playing field" for evangelization. He reiterated his call for women to be given real participation in the church's decision-making process and his view that the church would be foolish not to make use of their potential. [50]


Marx has consistently criticized European policies towards asylum seekers, saying that they keep away people who need help. On the occasion of the sinking of a migrant boat near Lampedusa in 2013, he said:

For years, we have followed a policy which has prevented those in need reaching our shores. This is not the kind of Europe we want. To claim asylum is a fundamental human right which we must respect. Refugees and asylum seekers deserve to be treated humanely. [51]

On 5 September 2015, Marx along with Lutheran bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, members of the clergy and crowds of Germans enthusiastically welcomed Syrian refugees coming to Germany at the Munich train station. [52]

He has also spoken out against xenophobia and violence done against migrants in Germany. He said that Catholics are not allowed to be xenophobic. [53]

In September 2015, he chaired a meeting of COMECE joined by the Conference of European Churches, which had been convened to discuss the Syrian migrant crisis in Europe. Marx made clear that "Those who enter Europe must not be afraid to drown or suffocate. And they must get a fair asylum process. These are minimum standards which must apply throughout Europe." [54]

Following the 2015-2016 New Year's Eve attacks on women in Germany and the discovery that most of the violence was carried out by people from the Middle East or North Africa who entered Germany as refugees, Marx condemned the violence: "These new forms of violence and especially the inhumane treatment of women cannot be tolerated" and he demanded that "all the different forces in society must work together to prevent this type of incidents and guarantee safety." [55]

Marx in 2009 Marx 05-2009.jpg
Marx in 2009

On 6 February 2016, he remarked that Germany cannot take in all of the world's refugees and that there needs to be a reduction in the number coming in. There had already been 1.1 million migrants entering Germany in the past year up to that point, and an unknown number yet to come. He said that in order to help refugees, it needed not only "charity but also reason". At the same time, Marx also criticized the anti-foreigner sentiments growing in Germany that had been spreading in society. [56]

In September 2016, an aide to the head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) party in Germany made negative comments about refugees, saying it was hard to deport them. Marx criticized the remarks and said that politicians should by finding ways to integrate them, rather than get rid of them. [57]

At the 2016 St Michael's reception in Berlin, Marx addressed a crowd of 800, including Chancellor Merkel, and praised Germany's policy of welcoming in refugees. He also warned against nationalism and stated: 'Patriotism yes, we love our homeland, but any form of nationalism must be opposed." [58]

In February 2017, Marx praised Chancellor Angela Merkel over her policy towards refugees: "In a critical phase of Europe, you have set an important sign of humanity and given an example of Christian love of neighbor in politics," he said, adding, "she knows that Christians must not simply let the world run its course. We have helped shape it!" Marx also criticized populist movements, stating that "a retreat to the national, to the closed is no Christian option." [59]

In the wake of the German parliamentary elections in September 2017 that saw the far-right AfD party enter the German parliament for the first time, Marx spoke out in support of reaffirming Germany's commitment to help migrants and refugees, saying: "For Christians, who'll be present in all parties, topics of fundamental importance will include dealing with foreigners seeking our protection and with our society's poor and disadvantaged. ...In the common struggle for the right path, black-and-white images of hate and exclusion aren't appropriate." [60]

In July 2018, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) party nearly pushed Angela Merkel's government to the brink of collapse after it demanded that she do more to restrict the number of migrants entering Germany. In response, Marx criticized the CSU for going against Christian values: "A party that has chosen the C in the name has an obligation, in the spirit of Christian social teaching, especially in its attitude towards the poor and the weak". [61]

In July 2020 a Benedictine abbess named Mechthild Thürmer in Bavaria sheltered a migrant at her Abbey who the government wanted to deport. The abbess granted church asylum to the migrant and a Bamberg court threatened her with imprisonment. Marx and other Bavarian bishops came out in strong support for the abbess. Marx commented: "The bishops see no reason for a court sentence. They fully support the tradition of church asylum, which lays bare the exceptionally inhuman hardship of the EU asylum system". [62]


Marx has asserted that climate change and the refugee crisis are the two biggest problems facing Europe. He has repeated Pope Francis' words in asserting the existence of an 'ecological debt' of richer more developed nations to poorer less developed nations. He has said that the Church can learn from the world in 'recognizing the signs of the times'. [63]

Foreign relations

Marx has served as the representative of the church in Germany in other parts of the world.

In 2015, he visited the United States, including the US-Mexican border. He spoke about this experience in 2016, by saying, 'When I visited the U.S.-Mexican border last year and saw the Mexico-United States barrier with its series of walls, I thought to myself that cannot be the future of European borders." [64]

In January 2016, he visited Viet Nam and had a meeting with the chief of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, a communist party umbrella-organization that has control of all social organizations within Viet Nam. The President of the Front stated that relations between Viet Nam and the Holy See had greatly improved, and that the church in Viet Nam was engaging in many activities that benefited Vietnamese society. Marx expressed his hope that the Front would assist in developing Catholicism in Viet Nam and facilitating humanitarian activities among the Catholic community. [65]

During the same visit, Marx was refused permission to travel to Vinh diocese, without any stated reason from official sources. It may have been related to the cases of religious persecution that had occurred in Vinh against the clergy and laity of the diocese. Marx said that "no political and economic organizations can injure religious freedom". [66]


On 22 November 2015, to mark the 50th anniversary of the exchange of letters between German and Polish bishops in 1965, German and Polish bishops met at the monastery of Jasna Góra in Poland. Marx gave the homily at the Mass where Polish Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki. Representatives of each country's bishops signed a statement about their common mission to build a Europe based on Christianity and the need for continued efforts to recover from their past as wartime adversaries. [67]

In September 2016, in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Marx and Lutheran bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm called for healing of past wounds between Catholics and Protestants. Their statement said: "A look at history reveals the suffering and wounds that Christians have inflicted on each other. This shocks and shames us. ...We see it as an exceptional moment of our fellowship, after centuries of mutual separation, to mark a Reformation anniversary with such readiness to engage in forgiveness and a new beginning." They planned to mark the anniversary with a mutual ecumenical meeting at Hildesheim on 11 March 2017 where "we will confess our guilt before God on behalf of our churches, asking God and each other for forgiveness and committing ourselves before God to continue to deepen our togetherness". [68] Marx said of Luther:"We as Catholics can now clearly say that Luther never wanted to create a new Church." [69]

In February 2017, Marx attended an ecumenical meeting of Catholics and Lutherans in Stuttgart to release revised versions of German translations of the Catholic and Lutheran bibles. At the event, Marx said, "I am very pleased that we are placing God's word in our midst in such an ecumenically meaningful year as 2017, in which we together recall the events of the Reformation 500 years ago and celebrate them today as a celebration of Christ, to place God's word in our midst." [70]

In August 2020, Marx and Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm were awarded the 2020 Augsburg Peace Prize  [ de ] for their "unconditional will to live together in peace". Marx was praised for his commitment to ecumenical dialogue and cooperation between the two churches that had long been divided for the past 500 years. Marx said on the occasion: "Christianity in Germany and Europe will only have a future if we strongly work together and stay together ecumenically. That is important, and that is where I see the prize as encouragement". [71]

In September 2019, representatives of the Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany proposed "reciprocal Eucharistic hospitality". In September 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith criticized it for doctrinal errors. Marx supported the proposal, saying that plans were "already far advanced" and that "the ball is in the Vatican's court". He said: "I would like to see Christians celebrate the eucharist together, without becoming a unified Church. Ecumenism only works if we try to understand the position of others and sometimes accept differences." [72]

Church reform

Marx has taught that Catholic doctrine remains the same, but the church's understanding of it changes over time. He has said that theology and doctrine are not the same, and that theology can change, but doctrine can't. He has said that "truth does not change but we gain greater understanding of the truth as we grow... We don't own the truth, the truth owns us, since it is a person we encounter, not something we possess." [73]

While at the 2015 Synod of the family, he contrasted Pope Pius XI's encyclical Casti connubii and Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation 'Familiaris Consortio' as evidence of the church's living tradition. [73]

In relation to the 2001 Congregation for Divine Worship's document Liturgiam Authenticam , which called for literal translations of the Latin into the vernacular, Marx commented that it was too 'narrow in view' and a 'dead end'. [74]

In June 2017, Marx called for the global church to admit more women into top leadership positions. He said "And that is why I want to emphasize that positions of responsibility and executive positions in the Church that are open to lay people must be shared by both men and women." [75]

In 2018, Marx and a majority of other German bishops supported a proposal to allow Protestant spouses of German Catholics to receive the Eucharist at Mass. However, a minority of German bishops opposed this proposal and appealed to the Vatican for clarification of the issue. Archbishop Luis Ladaria, representing Pope Francis, issued a statement in June 2018 that temporarily rejected the German proposal on several grounds, including that it was an issue for the wider church as a whole to consider. [76]

In September 2019, Marx gave his support to the idea of having married priests within certain regions and under certain conditions. [77]

In July 2020, the Vatican's Congregation of the Clergy issued a document on parish reform entitled: "The pastoral conversion of the parish community at the service of the evangelizing mission of the Church". Many German bishops criticized this document, including Marx. Marx criticized the way that the document was issued from the Vatican without consultation at the local level. In Munich Cathedral, on 24 July, he said: "It is a little strange that a document arrives from Rome without ever having been discussed with us. Is this the coexistence of the universal Church with the particular Church that they have desired? Not really!". He then added: "It is not for one person to proclaim something and for others to simply follow, but to listen to each other, to learn together, to absorb the experiences of the local Church—which is missing from the document that has been released these days. As if in Germany we had never thought of missionary parishes!". However, Marx welcomed Pope Francis' drive for a more synodal church. [78]


While president of the German Conference of Catholic Bishops, Marx supported the guide the organization issued to allow for Lutheran spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches. [79]

Persecution of Christians

In April 2017, during the Good Friday service held in Munich, Marx lamented the persecution of Christians that occurred in the world, especially in nations that had been shaped by Islam: "there can be no peace between religions," he said, unless "all human beings are permitted to live their faith and be respected in it." [80]

Violence and religion

In June 2017, during an interview Marx said that religious leaders needed to be on guard to make sure that they did not provide a kind of pious framework from which religious extremists could perform violence. He indicated that both Catholics and Muslims needed to think about this. He said, "Religions simply must ask themselves—and permit themselves to be asked—whether by the way they are being interpreted or lived, they are contributing toward justifying or even fueling conflicts" [81]

Democracy and human rights

In August 2020, Marx spoke out in favour of the pro-democracy protestors in Belarus. On 15 August, he preached in Munich Cathedral: "Everywhere where people rise up and defend human dignity, the dignity of life and the dignity of freedom, one becomes conscious of Easter and that includes Belarus. Easter means rising up against hatred, violence and injustice" [82]

In September 2020, Marx spoke out against an attempt in the Danish parliament to ban non-medical circumcision. He said, "The Catholic Church in the European Union considers any attempt on the fundamental right to freedom of religion as unacceptable. The criminalization of circumcision is a very grave measure that raises deep concern". [83]


During the 2015 Synod on the family, Marx faced opposition from other bishops for supporting Kasper's proposal that the rules be relaxed to allow people who have divorced and attempted remarriage to receive Holy Communion. Divisions were particularly acute between the group of bishops from Germany (notably Marx), and conservatives such as George Pell of Sydney. Marx accused Pell of trying to foster division by making it seem as if there were two camps within the Church, one around Pope Benedict XVI and the other around Kasper. A spokesman for Pell welcomed the suggestion that Marx saw no differences between the two groups. [84]

Marx was indirectly criticized by retired Pope Benedict in a 2016 book of interviews. [85] The occasion was related to how, shortly before Benedict's resignation in 2013, Marx had criticized him by saying he had turned the Roman curia into his own court. In response to this, Benedict said "I have always lived simply, always, ever since my childhood." The retired Pope's personal secretary Georg Gänswein also stated "One should be careful of making statements or valuations of a situation that one does not know well." [86]

In August 2020, the German Bishops Conference published a photo of Marx posed in front of a monumental statue of Karl Marx on its Facebook page. [87] A Polish Catholic magazine, Polonia Christiana  [ pl ], said the photo showed "where contemporary modernist Catholicism has gone". It described the cardinal as "inspired by the Red Revolution not only in economics" but even in supporting sexual "liberation". It said he was "trying to reinterpret Scripture and Tradition in the light of contemporary (anti) culture and the often questionable findings of science". [88]

Marx and other German bishops have been widely criticized, including from other bishops,[ who? ] about a 'synodal' path for reform of the church that they are alleged to be conducting within the church in Germany. Attempts by Marx and the German bishops to try to have synods that make decisions for church issues within Germany are seen by such critics as being on a path to 'schism' and 'heresy'. Others, however, have given support for this path, including Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge who dismissed the criticism and said in May 2021 "I have great confidence in the Germans (and) in Marx," [89]

Cardinal Gerhard Muller criticized Marx in June 2021 in an article in the Bonn General-Anzeiger. He claimed that the Colonge abuse crisis was not about abuse but was an attempt by Marx to discredit Cardinal Woelki, who was opposed to the German 'synodal path' being supported by Marx. Muller alleged that the synodal path Marx was initiating was an "attempt to react to the abuse crisis with a heretical and schismatic agenda". [90]

Sexual abuse

German media reported that an unidentified priest in the diocese of Trier had allegedly sexually abused minors, and that this priest was not removed by Cardinal Marx when he was bishop of Trier, even though he had been made aware of the case. Cardinal Marx's spokesperson claimed that Marx had acted with the relevant guidelines in place at the time. It was further claimed by the media that the priest continued to serve in Trier until 2015 and his abuse also allegedly continued up until that point. The rules governing these cases were reformed in 2010 and 2013, and the spokesperson claimed that had the new rules been in place at the time, the church would have acted differently. [91]

Marx opened a meeting of bishops in Fulda in late September 2018 to discuss a study concerning widespread sexual abuse within the German church. The study had been commissioned by the German bishops' conference and given to the press in September 2018, and it showed widespread sexual abuse had occurred in the German church from 1946 to 2014, with almost 4,000 victims abused. On the occasion, Marx said the report "makes it clear to us that the Catholic Church has by no means overcome the issue of dealing with the sexual abuse of minors." [92] "I feel we have reached a turning point about the issues such as prevention and the treatment of victims, but also about how the Church will deal with its own future" and "We must do more: listen, understand and take appropriate measures." [93]

In February 2019 Marx spoke at a conference on paedophilia in the Catholic church summoned by Pope Francis, saying that procedures to prosecute offenders "were deliberately not complied with", and files were destroyed, or not created, allowing abuse to continue. "Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them." He called for greater transparency, saying that it is not transparency that damages the church, but its lack, and covering up. [94]

In December 2020 Marx called the Archdiocese of Cologne's decision not to publish an investigation into clergy sexual abuse as 'devastating' for the entire church. In a newspaper interview, Marx said "the public now perceives that lawyers are quibbling over details on the backs of the victims". Marx promised that the Archdiocese of Munich would publish its own report on sexual abuse once it was finished in 2021, which would name those who were responsible and that it would not be about sparing his predecessors (Joseph Ratzinger and Friedrich Wetter). [95]

Also in December 2020, Marx announced he would set up a charitable foundation in his diocese to help people who were affected by sexual abuse in the church and that he would be giving the vast majority of his private assets, which totaled 500,000 Euros, to the foundation. [96]

In February 2021, Marx was accused in a report published by Deutschlandfunk of mishandling a case in the Diocese of Trier that said he had investigated a priest who had gotten a parish employee pregnant around 2000 but not a second priest who, in the confessional, had advised her to have an abortion. Marx confessed this error to the Congregation for Clergy in 2007. [96]

Also in the same month, Christian Pfeiffer, a German criminologist who had been hired by the German Bishops' Conference in 2011 to investigate sex abuse, accused Marx of denying his team access to some key documents. He had similar criticisms a year before. He alleged that Marx was trying to protect Pope Benedict, himself as well as other German church leaders. Marx rejected the allegations as baseless. [96]

Sex abuse victims, in April 2021, urged German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to go ahead with plans to award Marx with the Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on grounds of his alleged mishandling of sex abuse cases in the past. Peter Bringmann-Henselder who represented sex abuse victims and was himself a recipient of the same award said he would give back his award if Marx was awarded. [97] Marx responded by declining the award and said: "I take very seriously the criticism now being leveled by people dealing with sexual abuse in the Church, regardless of the correctness of the individual statements in open letters and in the media" and said he would not ignore the criticism. [98]

While Marx has not been directly implicated in any wrongdoing regarding the Church sexual abuse crisis, he said that all members of the hierarchy bear some responsibility for it, and that it has lead to a credibility crisis among Church leadership. Marx said that the Church has reached a "dead end" regarding the sex abuse crisis and hopes that his resignation would be "a personal signal for a new beginning, for a new awakening of the Church, not only in Germany." [99]

In May 2021 Marx sent a letter to Pope Francis offering to resign as archbishop. Marx wrote, "I have to share responsibility for the catastrophe of sexual abuse by officials of the church over past decades". Marx wrote further there were, "a lot of personal failure and administrative errors" and also, "institutional and systemic failure" and Marx wrote as well, "I would like to make it clear that I am ready to take personal responsibility, not only for my own mistakes but for the church as an institution which I have helped to shape over the decades." The Archdiocese of Munich stated that Pope Francis had allowed Marx to make his resignation letter public, and asked him to remain in his role until he had received an answer. [100] A law firm commissioned by the archdiocese to investigate historic sexual abuse allegations is set to release its report shortly after the letter became public. [101] On 10 June 2021, in a lengthy letter addressed to Marx, Pope Francis informed him that he should continue as Archbishop of Munich and Freising. [14]


In October 2008 Marx published Das Kapital: A Plea for the Human Being. [102] He described it as "an argument with Marxism". It opened with a letter addressed to Karl Marx: "The consequences of your thinking were disastrous." Contrary to his namesake's prediction of the inevitable collapse of capitalism, he proposed an important role for the Church in the survival of a healthy form of capitalism: "Capitalism without humanity, solidarity and justice has no morals and no future." [103] [104]


  1. The letter was written in informal Argentine Spanish, an indication that Pope Francis wrote it himself. [15]

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Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Rafael Palmero Ramos
Titular Bishop of Pićan
23 July 1996 – 20 December 2001
Succeeded by
Valentin Pozaić
Preceded by
Hermann Josef Spital
Bishop of Trier
20 December 2001 – 30 November 2007
Succeeded by
Stephan Ackermann
Preceded by
Friedrich Wetter
Archbishop of Munich and Freising
30 November 2007 –
Preceded by
Piotr Jarecki
Vice-President of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community
18 March 2009 – 22 March 2012
Succeeded by
Jean Kockerols
Titular church established Cardinal-Priest of San Corbiniano
20 November 2010 –
Preceded by
Adrianus Herman van Luyn
President of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community
22 March 2012 – 8 March 2018
Succeeded by
Jean-Claude Hollerich
Office established Coordinator of the Council for the Economy
8 March 2014 –
Preceded by
Robert Zollitsch
President of the German Episcopal Conference
12 March 2014 – 3 March 2020
Succeeded by
Georg Bätzing