Witzel, Georg (Wicelius)

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Theologian, liturgist, irenicist, generally recognized as the most representative of the "expectants" or those who followed a via media in hoping to reform the church along Erasmian and humanistic lines; b. Vacha, Germany, 1501; d. Mainz, Feb. 16, 1573. Witzel was among the most prolific publicists of the Catholic party during the century of the reform and was author of more than 130 published works. He wished to reform and reunite the church of the 16th century by a return to the practices of the primitive and postapostolic church. He was educated at the universities of Erfurt and Wittenberg, where he had M. luther, A. karlstadt, and P. melanchthon as masters. Bishop Adolph of Merseburg ordained him in 1521. Soon thereafter Witzel joined the Lutheran movement, holding a number of pastorates in Vacha, Fulda, Neimegk, and Eisenach. He abandoned the Protestant party after the Confession of Augsburg (1530), and he was appointed consultant for religious affairs of the court of George of Saxony. With Christopher Carlowitz (150778) he represented the Catholic party at the Colloquy of Leipzig in 1539; and in collaboration with Martin bucer he worked out a formula of reform that influenced the later religious colloquies of Hagenau and Regensburg. The reform program envisioned a return to the ancient liturgies based on the account of Justin Martyr; a modified interpretation of the sola fide; a reduction of feast days; Mass in the vernacular; and the chalice for the laity. Witzel prepared also a number of church ordinances (Kirchenordnungen ) in Brandenburg, Meissen, Fulda, Cleve, and Strassburg. He was active at the diets of Regensburg in 1542 and 1544 and again at Augsburg in 1555, where he provided Emperor Ferdinand I with a formula of concord (Pro concordia Ecclesiae repurgandae ac restituendae ). He was author of the first Catholic catechism published in the German language (1535), and he was the first to use an abbreviated Bible history for instructional purposes. It is, however, as a liturgist that Witzel exerted his greatest influence. He translated the Latin Mass into German and published a number of Eastern liturgies, including the Mass of St. Chrysostom and the Liturgy of St. Basil. He was a strong opponent of the Council of Trent until the time of his death. His conciliatory works, especially his Via Regia (1564) and his Methodus Concordiae Ecclesiasticae (1532), were used by the 17th-century ecumenists G. calixtus, H. Conring, (160681), and H. grotius.

Bibliography: g. richter, Die Schriften Georg Witzels (Fulda 1913), bibliog. w. trusen, Um Die Reform und Einheit der Kirche (Münster 1957). j. p. dolan, "Witzel et Erasme à propos des sacrements," Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 54:129142; The Influence of Erasmus, Witzel and Cassander in the Church Ordinances of the Duchees of Cleve during the Middle Decades of the 16th Century (Münster 1957). r. jauernig, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 6:178788. È. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 15.2:357782.

[j. p. dolan]