Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler

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The Right Reverend

Wilhelm Emmanuel Freiherr von Ketteler
Bishop of Mainz
Ketteler, Wilhelm Emanuel.jpg
Church Latin Church
Diocese Mainz
Personal details
Born25 December 1811
Died13 July 1877

Freiherr [1] Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler (25 December 1811 13 July 1877) was a German theologian and politician who served as Bishop of Mainz. His social teachings became influential during the papacy of Leo XIII and his encyclical Rerum novarum .

Roman Catholic Diocese of Mainz

The Diocese of Mainz, historically known in English by its French name of Mayence is a Latin rite of the Catholic church in Germany. It was founded in 304, promoted in 780 to Metropolitan Archbishopric of Mainz and demoted back in 1802 to bishopric. The diocese is suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Freiburg. Its district is located in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse. The seat of the diocese is in Mainz at the Cathedral dedicated to Saints Martin and Stephen. It is the only Roman Catholic diocese in the world – other than Rome – which bears the title of a Holy See.

<i>Rerum novarum</i> encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on May 15, 1891

Rerum novarum, or Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor, is an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on 15 May 1891. It was an open letter, passed to all Catholic patriarchs, primates, archbishops and bishops, that addressed the condition of the working classes.


Early life and ordination

Ketteler was born in Münster in Westphalia. In 1828 he finished the Matura in Brig, Switzerland far away from his home.[ citation needed ] He studied theology at Göttingen, Berlin, Heidelberg and Munich, and was ordained priest in 1844. He resolved to consecrate his life to maintaining the cause of the freedom of the Church from the control of the State. This brought him into collision with the civil power, an attitude which he maintained throughout a stormy and eventful life. [2]

Münster Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Münster is an independent city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is in the northern part of the state and is considered to be the cultural centre of the Westphalia region. It is also capital of the local government region Münsterland. Münster was the location of the Anabaptist rebellion during the Protestant Reformation and the site of the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia ending the Thirty Years' War in 1648. Today it is known as the bicycle capital of Germany.

Westphalia State part and historic region of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany

Westphalia is a region in northwestern Germany and one of the three historic parts of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It has an area of 20,208 km2 (7,802 sq mi) and 7.9 million inhabitants.

<i>Matura</i> name of final exam of high school in many countries

Matura or its translated terms is a Latin name for the secondary school exit exam or "maturity diploma" in various countries, including Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine.

Scholar and politician

Ketteler was rather a man of action than a scholar, and he first distinguished himself as the deputy for District of Tecklenburg and Warendorf at the Frankfurt National Assembly, [3] a position to which he was elected in 1848, and in which he soon became noted for his decision, foresight, energy and eloquence. [2]

Frankfurt Parliament first parliament for all of Germany (1849-1849)

The Frankfurt Parliament was the first freely elected parliament for all of Germany, elected on 1 May 1848.


In 1850 he was made bishop of Mainz, by order of the Vatican, in preference to the celebrated Professor Leopold Schmidt, of Gießen, whose Liberal sentiments were not agreeable to the Papal party. When elected, Ketteler refused to allow the students of theology in his diocese to attend lectures at Giessen, and ultimately founded an opposition seminary in the diocese of Mainz itself. [2]

Mainz Place in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Mainz is the capital and largest city of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The city is located on the Rhine river at its confluence with the Main river, opposite Wiesbaden on the border with Hesse. Mainz is an independent city with a population of 206,628 (2015) and forms part of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region.

Holy See episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, Italy

The Holy See, also called the See of Rome, is the apostolic episcopal see of the bishop of Rome, known as the Pope, ex cathedra the universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church, and a sovereign entity of international law. Founded in the 1st century by Saints Peter and Paul, by virtue of Petrine and Papal primacy according to Catholic tradition, it is the focal point of full communion for Catholic bishops and Catholics around the world organised in polities of the Latin Church, the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, and their dioceses and religious institutes.

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support limited government, individual rights, capitalism, democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.


He also founded religious institutes of School Brothers and School Sisters, to work in the various educational agencies he had called into existence, and he labored to institute orphanages and rescue homes. [2] In 1851, he founded the congregation of the Sisters of Divine Providence, with Stephanie Amelia Starkenfels de la Roche.[ citation needed ]

A religious institute is a type of institute of consecrated life in the Catholic Church where its members take religious vows and lead a life in community with fellow members. Religious institutes are one of the two types of institutes of consecrated life; the other is that of the secular institute, where its members are "living in the world".

Death and legacy

He died at Burghausen, Upper Bavaria in 1877.

In Mainz, "Workers' Day" is celebrated in honor of the Bishop. The Herz-Jesu-Kirche, Mainz was built in the honour of Ketteler. The fuchsia cultivar "Baron de Ketteler" is named after him. Ketteler's nephew, Klemens von Ketteler, was Germany's envoy in China and was murdered during the Boxer Rebellion.[ citation needed ]

Herz-Jesu-Kirche, Mainz church building in Mombach, Germany

The Catholic Herz-Jesu-Kirche is a Neo-Gothic hall church located in the borough Mombach of the German city of Mainz. It is dedicated to the Sacred Heart.

<i>Fuchsia</i> genus of plants

Fuchsia is a genus of flowering plants that consists mostly of shrubs or small trees. The first, Fuchsia triphylla, was discovered on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola about 1696–1697 by the French Minim monk and botanist, Charles Plumier, during his third expedition to the Greater Antilles. He named the new genus after German botanist Leonhart Fuchs (1501–1566).

Cultivar plant or grouping of plants selected for desirable characteristics

The term cultivar most commonly refers to an assemblage of plants selected for desirable characters that are maintained during propagation. More generally, cultivar refers to the most basic classification category of cultivated plants in the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP). Most cultivars arose in cultivation, but a few are special selections from the wild.

He is cited in Pope Benedict's encyclical Deus caritas est for his role in the Catholic social tradition.



In 1861, Ketteler published a book on reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in Germany, Freiheit, Autorität, und Kirche; in it, he proposed the founding of a prayer society "for the Reunion of Christendom". [4] Ketteler was friends with Julie von Massow, a Lutheran woman from Prussian nobility, who indeed founded such a prayer society. [5]

Church rights

In 1858, Ketteler threw down the gauntlet against the State in his pamphlet on the rights of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany. In 1863 he adopted Lassalle's views, and published his Die Arbeitfrage und das Christenthum. [2]

Papal infallibility

When the question of papal infallibility arose, he opposed the promulgation of the dogma on the ground that such promulgation was inopportune. But after the dogma was defined, he submitted to the decrees (in August 1870). [2]


He was the warmest opponent of the State in the Kulturkampf provoked by Prince Otto von Bismarck after the publication of the Vatican decrees, and was largely instrumental in compelling that statesman to retract the pledge he had rashly given, never to "go to Canossa." [2]

Battle of Sedan

To such an extent did Bishop von Ketteler carry his opposition, that in 1874 he forbade his clergy to take part in celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Sedan, and declared the Rhine to be a "Catholic river." [2]


  1. Regarding personal names: Freiherr was a title before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as Baron . Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a legal class, titles preceded the full name when given (Graf Helmuth James von Moltke). Since 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), can be used, but are regarded as a dependent part of the surname, and thus come after any given names (Helmuth James Graf von Moltke). Titles and all dependent parts of surnames are ignored in alphabetical sorting. The feminine forms are Freifrau and Freiin .
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ketteler, Wilhelm Emmanuel"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 763.
  3. Goyau 1913.
  4. Unitas, Volume 15. Society of the Atonement. 1963. p. 90.
  5. Fleischer, Manfred (1969). "Lutheran and Catholic Reunionists in the Age of Bismarck". Church History . 38 (1): 43–66.

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Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Georg Anton Brinkmann
Prince-Episcopal Delegate for
Brandenburg and Pomerania

Succeeded by
Leopold Pelldram
Preceded by
Petrus Leopold Kaiser
Bishop of Mainz
Title next held by
Paul Leopold Haffner
interim Administrator Christoph Moufang