Lutheran bishop of Berlin and Brandenberg (1945–67) and courageous opponent of Nazism and communism; b. May 15, 1880 in Berlin; d. there on Jan. 31, 1967. Dibelius earned a Ph.D. in theology at the University of Berlin (1901), and during several pastoral positions wrote a number of historical and theological studies. He rose quickly in the German Protestant hierarchy, and in 1925 became bishop of the East Prussia (Berlin) diocese. When Hitler came into power in 1933, Bishop Dibelius was suspended from his office for refusing to concur in Nazi racial theories. Though he was arrested three times and forbidden to speak or publish, he was never convicted of any crime. Throughout World War II, he was an active member of the Confessing Church and joined in drafting the Barmen Declaration.
Soon after the war, he was appointed bishop of the divided city of Berlin, a position which he held until a year before his death. Again, Dibelius found himself laboring to build the church under a totalitarian regime, this time in the form of communism. He worked indefatigably not only to reunite the church in Germany but world wide. In 1948 he participated in the formation of the World Council of Churches and was instrumental in the formation of Germany's Evangelical Church (E.K.i.D.). He subsequently served as chairman of the E.K.i.D. (1949–61) and President of the World Council of Churches (1954–61).
Bibliography: o. dibelius, In the Service of the Lord (New York 1964). w. j. smart, Walking With God (London 1955). j. e. wagner, Day Is Dawning: The Story of Bishop Otto Dibelius (Philadelphia 1956).
[j. k. luoma]