Luxembourg, The Catholic Church in
LUXEMBOURG, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is bordered on the east by Germany, on the south by France and on the west by Belgium. Located in the plateau region of the Ardennes, the region's terrain consists of rolling hills rising to low mountains in the east, and falling to the Moselle river valley in the southeast. Wooded areas abound and natural resources include iron ore, which is no longer mined; agricultural crops, nourished by the region's mild climate and grown on small, family-run farms, include barley, oats, wheat, grapes, fruits and potatoes. Luxembourg exports steel, rubber and chemical products throughout Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, and was one of the original founders of the European Economic Community (now the European Union). In the late 20th century banking grew into a major component of its economy. In 1999 it entered the agreement to utilize the Euro currency.
Founded in 963 and with its roots in the Holy Roman Empire, the grand duchy passed through German, Spanish and Habsburg control before coming into formal existence in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna. It remained part of the kingdom of the Netherlands until 1839, when a revolt by neighboring Belgium resulted in the loss of half its area to that country. Political control was retained by the Netherlands, and then Germany until World War I. The region—neutral through both world wars— was occupied by German forces from 1940 to 1944, and joined NATO following World War II. Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy in which legislative power resides in a chamber of deputies composed of one representative for every 5,500 inhabitants. There is an executive council with seven ministers. The Nassau-Weilbourg family, Catholics, have ruled since 1912. Ecclesiastically, Luxembourg has an archdiocese located in the city of Luxembourg that is immediately subject to the Holy See. Our Lady, Comfort of the Afflicted, whose miraculous image has been venerated since 1624, is the patroness of the city and Duchy of Luxembourg. The image continues to attract many pilgrims, especially during the octave of her feast on the 3d to 5th Sundays after Easter.
Catholic Church to 1500 . Christian communities established themselves in the region during the 5th and 6th centuries under the influence of the important Christian centers in trier and liÈge. The consolidation of Christianity continued until the end of the 8th century; it owed much to the activities of St. willibrord, the English Benedictine missionary. The parish system developed in the 9th century. Most of Luxembourg pertained to the See of Liège and, still more, to the See of Trier; smaller sections belonged to the dioceses of Metz, Verdun, reims and cologne.
Monasteries were established early and exercised political and cultural as well as religious influence. Saint Hubert was founded in 687 (occupied by Benedictines in 817), Saint Maximin in Trier in the 7th or 8th century, Prüm in 721 and Münster in the town of Luxembourg in 1083. Orval, founded in 1071 by the Benedictines, passed to the Canons Regular of St. Augustine in 1110 and to the Cistercians in 1132.
The Abbey of echternach, founded in 698, gained wide renown for its school of copyists, which flourished in the 11th century, when it produced such masterpieces as the Golden Gospel Books, now in Nuremberg, Uppsala and the Escorial. The church and monastery built (1016–31) over the grave of St. Willibrord in Echternach remained a notable example of early Romanesque architecture. A dancing religious procession continued to take place annually on that site since the 14th century on Whit-Tuesday still attracted thousands of pilgrims into the 21st century.
Soon after their foundation Teutonic Knights and Knights Hospitallers established houses in Luxembourg, as did Dominicans, Franciscans and their respective orders of nuns. The best-remembered medieval religious women are St. kunigunde (d. 1033), daughter of Duke Siegfried II of Luxembourg and wife of Emperor Henry II, and Blessed Yolanda of Vianden (d. 1283).
Since 1500 . In 1354 the Duchy of Luxembourg was created; during the Middle Ages its rulers sometimes attained European significance as heads of the Holy Roman Empire while losing contact with Luxembourg itself. This phenomenon left its mark on the historical development of the Church, as political alliances were arranged with Burgundy (1441–43), the Spanish Hapsburgs (1506) and then Austria (1714). During the french revolution the duchy was incorporated into the French Republic as a department. Not until the 19th century would the region's political autonomy prompt the development of a unified diocesan ecclesiastical structure.
During the 15th and 16th centuries abuses invaded many monasteries and lowered the religious and moral life of the clergy. Since Luxembourg was part of the southern province of the Spanish Netherlands and had the
Archdiocese of Trier to the east acting as a spiritual bulwark, it was protected from the influence of the Protestant Reformation. The establishment of Luxembourg as a separate diocese was urged from the time of King Philip II, but the request was not granted partly because of the opposition of the bishops of Liège and Trier, both eager to preserve their feudal rights. The Jesuit College in the town of Luxembourg benefited the entire duchy (1602–1773). The Jesuits had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, which they spread by their teaching, preaching and missionary labors.
In the 17th and 18th centuries priestly vocations, especially to the Jesuits, were numerous. Some of these Jesuits became influential advisers at European courts, notably Karl von Mansfeld and Wilhelm lamormaini. The brothers W. and A. Wiltheim, J. Reuter, C. Lacroix,F. X. de Feller and others gained fame as writers.
Neither josephinism nor the enlightenment made much impact on the loyal Catholic Luxembourgers. The French Revolution, however, resulted in the confiscation of almost all the goods of nobles and monasteries. This great political and social upheaval also created a new class, composed often of foreigners with newly acquired wealth, that conducted, mildly at first and then ever more aggressively, a campaign of anticlericalism, using political means to create a new ideological climate. In the transitional period the intellectual quality of clerical education deteriorated.
Luxembourg fell under first the dioceses of Metz (1801–23) and then Namur (1823–40). Its ecclesiastical status was finally stabilized in 1840 with the creation of the Vicariate Apostolic of Luxembourg. J. T. Laurent, the first vicar apostolic, was a distinguished prelate, firm on matters of principle, who had been exiled from the country (1842–48). The vicariate became a diocese in 1870. Until 1908 it was subject to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, and was recognized by the state in 1873. A state-funded seminary was opened in 1845.
Beginning in the late 19th century, numerous vocations to the priesthood and to missionary religious orders developed in the diocese. From 1880 until World War II diocesan priests traveled to German and French dioceses, to Norway and to the United States. However, vocations dropped sharply after the mid-1900s. By 2000 there were 215 diocesan and 80 religious priests administering to the duchy's 275 parishes, while 17 brothers and 734 sisters performed educational and other social ministrations. Because of the shortage of clergy, the Church began to increase the level of participation among lay Catholics.
In addition to funding private religious schools, the state mandated religious instruction in public primary and secondary schools. A convention signed in 1997 provided local autonomy in such religious education, and allowed parents to choose between Roman Catholicism or ethics. In accordance with the Napoleonic French concordat of 1801 and the Luxembourg constitution of Oct. 17, 1868, Catholic churches, as well as churches of other denominations, were funded by the state. Despite its majority status, Catholicism was not a state religion. Protestants in Luxembourg were predominately of Lutheran and Calvinist denominations; minority faiths included Jews, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Muslim and Anglican.
Luxembourg's influential role within the European community was stressed by Pope John Paul II during an ad limina visit by Luxembourg Archbishop Fernand Franck in December of 1997. The pope had special praise for Luxembourg's support of Catholic social doctrines amid a materialist society. Archbishop Franck continued to remain an active voice in Europe's Catholic community, noting at the 1999 European Synod that the focus of the Church in the 21st century should be to assist in the creation of stable "multicultural and multi-religious societies" that would benefit people of all faiths.
Bibliography: c. wampach, Urkunden-und Quellenbuch zur Geschichte der altluxemburgischen Territorien bis zur burgundischen Zeit, 10 v. (Luxembourg 1935–55). r. m. staud and j. reuter, Die kirchlichen Kunstdenkmäler der Diözese Luxemburg (Luxembourg 1935–). c. j. herschen, Manuel d'histoire nationale, rev. n. margue and j. meyers (5th ed. Luxembourg 1947), Eng. tr. a. h. cooper-prichard (Luxembourg 1950). e. donckel, Die Kirche in Luxemburg von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (Luxembourg 1950). a. heiderscheid, Aspects de sociologie religieuse du diocèse de Luxembourg, 2 v. (Luxembourg 1961–62). Bilan du Monde, 2:570–572.