The Archdiocese of Paderborn

The Archdiocese of Paderborn was founded in 799 when Pope Leo III. stayed with Charlemagne at the source of the river Pader for three months. These were the days of preparation for Karl's coronation ceremonies as emperor, that took place at Christmas the year after. The foundation of the diocese of Paderborn happened during this meeting. But the bishopric used to be far smaller than today. Nowadays it lasts to 14.800 square kilometres. 1.69 million of the 5 million inhabitants are Roman Catholics. Since 2003 Hans-Josef Becker is archbishop of the diocese.

Until 1994 the district of the new diocese Magdeburg belonged to the Archdiocese of Paderborn. This area had been divided from the western part of Germany by the "iron curtain" and used to be an Episcopal Office since 1973. Today the independent diocese of Magdeburg is one out of three bishoprics which are assigned to the Paderborn church province.

The western part includes not only areas which are mainly agricultural but also parts of the industrialized Ruhr district together with areas that are characterized by light industry. From another point of view: The "Paderborner Land" and the "Sauerland" are mainly catholic, other regions are mainly protestant, and in many areas the confessions are more or less equally represented.

The clear diaspora situation in large sections of the archdiocese led to lively ecumenical consciousness at a very early date. Close contacts with the Protestant Church were established during the Second World War, and in 1957 Archbishop Lorenz Jaeger founded the “Johann Adam Möhler-Institut”, the first Ecumenical Institute, whose task it was to make a scientific study of doctrinal differences. The idea of instituting the Vatican Secretariate of Christian Unity also originated here. The Diocesan Delegate and the Episcopal Commission of Ecumenical Affairs are responsible for the successful development of the ecumenical movement in the parishes and at diocesan level. They support and promote the ecumenical perspective in the whole life of the Church in the archdiocese.

The socio-cultural structure of the archdiocese of Paderborn reflects the situation in the church in the Federal Republic of Germany today. This structure makes the archdiocese interesting and lively, but it requires varied pastoral care tailored to the needs of the particular area and situation.

The division of the archdiocese into 19 deaneries comprising 775 parishes provides the external structure for this differentiated ministry. It is served by 1179 secular and religious priests and more then 300 lay workers - parish assistants, youth officers in the deaneries or official advisers in the regions or in the diocesan headquarters in Paderborn.

In the year 2000 Johannes Joachim Degenhardt, archbishop of Paderborn at that time, circumscribed 217 units which are called „Pastoralverbünde". In these units two to five parishes cooperate with each other. While every parish is still independent, they cooperate in all pastoral affairs and have one leadership. The „Pastoralverbünde" are the diocese's answer to new situations and ways of life in society.

An aspect of particular importance is the countless number of honorary workers - parents, teachers, young people - in our parishes. They work together with the priests and full-time lay-workers, in particular in the work of catechising at parish level. The aim of this work is to bring young people into contact with believers and so to assist them in their decision for all life based on the Gospel. The main emphasis is laid on the preparation for the sacraments. As a complement to religious instruction in schools there are Penance, Eucharist and Confirmation groups.

Further groups work in a similar way: They are composed of people who share their lives with one another giving mutual support and witness but who also assume responsibilities in the community at large or in connection with aid to the "Third World".

The recognition of the family as the fundamental source of convincing religious teaching has led to an increase in the work with young couples and the efforts to help them make a good start in a life of faith together. This is the beginning of an integrated system of pastoral care which provides help and support for marriages and families at the various stages of development. The parents who wish to have their child baptised are invited to take part in the group life of the parish during the course of the preparatory talk preceding baptism. In family groups the whole family can exchange new impulses and receive new strength. What they experience is that no one believes alone. The parish community grows together through the experiences of a common faith.

The archdiocese of Paderborn is linked to the French diocese of Le Mans by a particular close relationship. In 836 the relics of St. Liborius, the patron of the cathedral, the diocese and the town, were brought from Le Mans to Paderborn. When these relics were handed over in a ceremony, an "Eternal Alliance of Brotherhood" was concluded between the two churches. This alliance, just as much alive today, has survived all the vicissitudes of Franco-German relations throughout the history. Indeed this bond of friendship can serve as an example for international relationships in Europe.

However, the archdiocese has not only a close connection with the diocese of Le Mans. There are relationships with many dioceses worldwide. This commitment for the global church has its source in the II. Vatican Council: 2.500 bishops from all over the world came together for this reason and made many contacts. But not only bishops cultivate contacts into the universal church: Many groups, initiatives and parishes of the archdiocese are also active in this area.