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Josef Frings

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Title: Josef Frings  
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Subject: Papal conclave, August 1978, Papal conclave, October 1978, Adolf Bertram, Second Vatican Council, Germany/Anniversaries/February/February 6
Collection: 1887 Births, 1978 Deaths, 20Th-Century Roman Catholic Archbishops, Archbishops of Cologne, Blind People from Germany, Burials at Cologne Cathedral, Cardinals Created by Pope Pius Xii, German Cardinals, German Roman Catholics, Grand Crosses of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Members of the Zentrale Dombauverein Zu Köln Von 1842, Participants in the Second Vatican Council, People from the Rhine Province, Roman Catholics in the German Resistance
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Josef Frings

His Eminence
Josef Richard Frings
Cardinal, Archbishop of Cologne
Sculpture of Frings in Cologne
Church Roman Catholic
Archdiocese Cologne
Province Cologne
Diocese Cologne
Installed 21 June
Term ended 10 February
Predecessor Karl Joseph Schulte
Successor Joseph Cardinal Höffner
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of San Giovanni a Porta Latina
Ordination 10 August
by Anton Hubert Fischer
Consecration 21 June
by Cesare Orsenigo
Created Cardinal 18 February
by Pius XII
Personal details
Born 6 February
Died 17 December 1978(1978-12-17) (aged 91)
Buried Cologne Cathedral
Nationality  German
Denomination Catholic
Motto Pro Hominibus Constitutus
(Appointed for men)
Coat of arms }

Josef Richard Frings (6 February 1887 – 17 December 1978), was a German Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Cologne from 1942 to 1969. Considered a significant figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism, he was elevated to the cardinalate in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.


  • Life 1
    • Early life and ordination 1.1
    • Pastoral work 1.2
  • Nazi period 2
    • Archbishop of Cologne 2.1
  • Post war 3
    • Cardinal 3.1
    • Second Vatican Council 3.2
    • Retirement and death 3.3
  • Legacy 4
    • "fringsen" 4.1
  • Works 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Early life and ordination

Frings was born as the first of eight children of Heinrich, a weaving industrialist and manufacturer, and Maria (née Sels) Frings, in Neuss. After 1905 he studied Catholic theology in Munich, Innsbruck, Freiburg and Bonn. On 10 August 1910, he received his ordination to the priesthood. He was baptised on 10 August 1884.

Pastoral work

At first he worked as a chaplain in Cologne-Zollstock until 1913 followed by a study visit in Rome until 1915. In 1916 he earned a doctorate in Theology in Freiburg. From 1915 until 1922 he was community Reverend in Cologne-Fühlingen. Afterwards he worked as a principal of an orphanage in Neuss from 1922 until 1924 and until 1937 he was the community reverend of Cologne-Braunsfeld. Subsequently he led the archiepiscopal seminary in Bensberg.

During his time as the clergyman of Cologne-Braunsfeld, he got acquainted with the mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer. In Adenauer's opinion, Frings had a wrong point of view about child education. Up to the time when Adenauer was chancellor and Frings became cardinal, their relationship was decidedly cool.

Nazi period

Archbishop of Cologne

Memorial tablet for Frings at the parish church of Cologne-Fühlingen.

On 1 May 1942 he was surprisingly named archbishop of Cologne, a post which he held until his resignation in 1969. Frings received his episcopal consecration from Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany, in Cologne Cathedral. The National Socialist regime had banned the German media from covering the consecration ceremonies; therefore, the citizens of Cologne started to publish small private advertisements to inform themselves of the news.

However, the international press was allowed to report the consecration, which made it so that people outside Germany were informed in one way or another. The persecution of the Jews was described by Frings as "himmelschreiendes Unrecht" (a crime that cries out to heaven). His popularity saved him from reprisals more than once. Nevertheless, he was closely monitored by the Gestapo with the aid of several informers, including some clerics.

Frings' consecration was used as a demonstration of Catholic self-assertion. In his sermons, he repeatedly spoke in support of persecuted peoples and against state repression. In March 1944, Frings attacked arbitrary arrests, racial persecution and forced divorces. That autumn, he protested to the Gestapo against the deportations of Jews from Cologne and surrounds.[1] In 1943, the German bishops had debated whether to confront Hitler directly and collectively over what they knew of the treatment of Jews. Frings wrote a pastoral letter cautioning his diocese not to violate the inherent rights of others to life, even those "not of our blood" and even during war, and preached in a sermon that "no one may take the property or life of an innocent person just because he is a member of a foreign race".[2]

Post war


Frings had been a fierce and outspoken opponent of Hitler and Nazism during World War II, and after the war was appointed head of the German Bishops' conference, and appointed a Cardinal. Against the declared neutrality of the clergy as demanded by Rome—joined the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). This step was a signal for many Rhenish Catholics (also clergymen), who before had a rather critical view of an interconfessional party also to support the CDU instead of the Centre Party. Though Frings left the CDU a few months later, due to pressure from Rome, his public partisanship is said to have been the start of the marginalizing and gradual decline of the Catholic Centre Party.

His episcopal motto was: Pro hominibus constitutus, which was Latin for: "Appointed for the people". Frings was appointed Cardinal-Priest of San Giovanni a Porta Latina by Pope Pius XII in the consistory of 18 February 1946. From 1945 until 1965 he was chairman of the Conference of the German Bishops. In the year 1948 he was named as the "high protector" of refugee affairs.

Frings was an ardent supporter of the Adveniat, founded in 1961, also started its work on his behalf.

Cardinal Frings is the only archbishop of Cologne who earned the honorary citizenship of Cologne. This happened in 1967. In the same year he was also awarded the honorary citizenship of his native town Neuss. The street in Cologne in which the residence of the present Archbishops of Cologne is located was renamed Kardinal-Frings-Straße.

Second Vatican Council

In advance of the Second Vatican Council, Frings gave a speech in Genoa with the title: "Das Konzil auf dem Hintergrund der Zeitlage im Unterschied zum ersten vatikanischen Konzil" ("The council on the background of the present time in contrast to the First Vatican Council"). When Pope John XXIII later got hold of the text of the speech, he summoned Frings for an audience at the Vatican. Cardinal Frings, who was doubtful as to whether the pope liked his speech, said to his secretary Dr Hubert Luthe, who would later become the bishop of Essen, in his humorous Kölsch dialect: "Hängen se m'r doch ens dat ruude Mäntelsche üm, wer weiß ob et nit dat letzte Mohl is" ("Please wrap the little red coat around my shoulders again, who knows if it will not be the last time you do it?"). But the pope appeared enthusiastic when he read Frings' manuscript, and he gave him a warm welcome. It was recently discovered that Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, Frings' theological expert, or peritus at the Council, had composed the text of the speech for Frings.[4]

Cardinal Frings memorial in Neuss, Germany

Frings participated in the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) and was a member of the ten-prelate council chair board. His speech freely held in Latin language about the rules of procedure in the opening session of the council ("of the first general Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Retirement and death

In 1963, Frings became philister of honour of the K.St.V. Arminia Bonn in the KV and on 3 May 1967 honorary member of the A.V. Rheinstein, a Catholic student fraternity that is a member of the Cartellverband der katholischen deutschen Studentenverbindungen.

In 1969 he resigned from the governance of his archdiocese for age reasons. He lost more and more of his eyesight and became more or less completely blind. Frings died from a heart attack in Cologne at age 91. He was entombed in the archiepiscopal crypt in the Cologne Cathedral. His successor was Joseph Höffner.


In 1996, the Kardinal-Frings-Association was founded in Frings' hometown of Neuss. The aim of the association is a scholarly study of the life and work of the Cardinal, and making the knowledge accessible to a broader public. On 12 August 2000 a memorial of Frings was erected on behalf of the Cardinal Frings Association. It was inaugurated by the patron of the event, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, at the time Archbishop of Cologne. On 24 June 2006 the Südbrücke (south bridge) between Düsseldorf and Neuss was renamed Josef-Kardinal-Frings-Brücke.


Cardinal Frings is eternalised in the Kölsch language with the word "fringsen" (Colognian (Kölsch) pronunciation: , a verb, literally translates as "to Frings") which became synonymous for "stealing food" and other low-value consumables out of need. The expression dates back on his New year's Eve sermon which he held on 31 December 1946 in the St. Engelbert church in Cologne-Riehl, in which he referred to the looting of coal trains and the bad supply situation in the grim winter:

We live in times where the single individual, in his need, ought to be allowed to take what he needs to preserve his life and health, if he cannot obtain it through other means, work or bidding.

Accordingly, the term "fringsen" refers to obtaining food and fuel for the winter among Cologne citizens. However, it is often overlooked that Cardinal Frings, in the very next sentence, also put the onus of returning the goods or repaying the original owner as soon as possible on whoever would appropriate consumables in this fashion:

But I think that in many cases, this was grossly overdone. And then there is only one way: Promptly return unlawful gains, or there will be no forgiveness with God.


  • "Die Einheit der Messiasidee in den Evangelien. Ein Beitrag zur Theologie des Neuen Testaments", Mainz: Kirchheim, 1917. Zugl.: theol. Diss. Freiburg/Br. 1916
  • "Grundsätze katholischer Soziallehre und zeitnaher Folgerungen", Köln 1947
  • Verantwortung und Mitverantwortung in der Wirtschaft. Was sagt die katholische Soziallehre über Mitwirkung und Mitbestimmung?, Köln: Bachem, 1949.
  • "Das Verhältnis der Kirche zu den Juden im Lichte des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils, Köln 1970
  • "Für die Menschen bestellt. Erinnerungen des Alterzbischofs von Köln, Autobiographie, Köln: Bachem 1973


  1. ^ Josef Frings; German Resistance Memorial Centre, Index of Persons; retrieved at 4 September 2013
  2. ^
  3. ^ Pio XII, Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, Vol. XII, 1951, 492
  4. ^ Jared Wicks, "Six texts by Prof. Joseph Ratzinger as peritus before and during Vatican Council II," Gregorianum 89, no. 2 (2008): 234-5.

Further reading

  • Froitzheim, Dieter (Hrsg.), Kardinal Frings - Leben und Werk. Wienand, Köln 1979. ISBN 3-87909-090-4
  • Kettel, Joachim: Josef Kardinal Frings, Leben & Wirken des Kölner Erzbischofs in Anekdoten, 1. Auflage, J.P. Bachem Verlag, Köln 2003. ISBN 3-7616-1670-8
  • Trippen, Norbert: Josef Kardinal Frings, Band 1: Sein Wirken für das Erzbistum Köln und für die Kirche in Deutschland, (= Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, Reihe B: Forschungen, 94), Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn-München-Wien-Zürich 2003. ISBN 3-506-79999-1
  • Trippen, Norbert: Josef Kardinal Frings, Band 2: Sein Wirken für die Weltkirche und seine letzten Bischofsjahre, (= Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, Reihe B: Forschungen, 94), Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn-München-Wien-Zürich 2005. ISBN 3-506-71345-0

External links

  • Cardinal Frings Association (German)
  • Literature of and about Cardinal Frings in the catalogue of the German National Library (German)
  • Catholic hierarchy - biographical dates of Josef Frings
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Adolf Bertram
Chairman of the Fulda Conference of Catholic Bishops
Succeeded by
Julius Döpfner
Preceded by
Karl Joseph Schulte

Archbishop of Cologne

Succeeded by
Joseph II. Höffner
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