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Bishop von Ketteler

Wilhelm Emmanuel Freiherr von Ketteler (25 December 1811 – 13 July 1877) was a Germanmarker 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.

Early life and ordination

Ketteler was born in Münstermarker in Westphalia. 1828 he finished the Matura in Brig, Switzerlandmarker far away of his home. He studied theology at Göttingenmarker, Berlinmarker, Heidelbergmarker and Munichmarker, 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.

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, a position to which he was elected in 1848, and in which he soon became noted for his decision, foresight, energy and eloquence.


In 1850 he was made bishop of Mainzmarker, by order of the Vatican, in preference to the celebrated Professor Leopold Schmidt, of Gießenmarker, 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.


He also founded orders 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. In 1851, he founded the congregation of the Sisters of Divine Providence, with Stephanie Amelia Starkenfels de la Roche.

Death and legacy

He died at Burghausen, Upper Bavaria in 1877.

In Mainz, "Workers' Day" is celebrated in honor of the Bishop. 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.

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


Church rights

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

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).


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 Canossamarker."

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 Sedanmarker, and declared the Rhinemarker to be a "Catholic river."



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