Diocese of Osnabrück
St Peter's Cathedral, Osnabrück
|Metropolitan||Archdiocese of Hamburg|
|Area||12,573 km2 (4,854 sq mi)|
|(as of 2013)|
|Cathedral||St. Peter's Cathedral|
|Bishop||Franz-Josef Hermann Bode|
|Metropolitan Archbishop||Stefan Heße|
|Auxiliary Bishops||Johannes Wübbe|
Map of Diocese of Osnabrück
|Website of the Diocese|
The Diocese of Osnabrück is a diocese of the Catholic church in Germany; which was founded around 800. It should not be confused with the smaller Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück - an ecclesiastical principality of the Holy Roman Empire until 1803 - over which the bishop, as prince-bishop, exercised both temporal and spiritual authority.
The Diocese was erected in 772 and it is certainly the oldest see founded by Charlemagne, in order to Christianize the conquered stem-duchy of Saxony. The first bishop of Osnabrück was Saint Wilho (785-804); the second bishop, Meginhard or Meingoz (804-33), was the real organizer of the see. Osnabrück diocese was originally a suffragan to the Archdiocese of Cologne (till 1824).
The temporal possessions of the see, originally quite limited, grew in time, and its prince-bishops exercised an extensive civil jurisdiction within the territory covered by their rights of immunity. The Prince-Bishopric continued to grow in size, making its status during the Reformation a highly contentious issue.
During the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, Osnabrück did not remain completely Catholic nor switch to Protestantism. Instead, each parish decided on its own which elements of Protestantism it took over. This unique state of affairs ended with the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which froze the parishes at their religious status as of 1624. From then on, the bishops alternated between Lutheran and Catholic office holders. While the prince-bishopric was ruled by a Protestant bishop, the Archbishop of Cologne would oversee the exercise of the Catholic religion in Osnabrück.
The Protestant bishops were selected from the neighboring Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg, with priority given to the cadets of what became the House of Hanover. The last Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück, the Lutheran Prince Frederick of Great Britain (1764-1803), was made Bishop in 1764 when he was only 197 days old. At the time, he was the younger of two sons of George III, giving him the strongest claim to election as prince-bishop.
In the German Mediatisation of 1803, the bishopric was dissolved and given to the Hanover branch of Brunswick-Lüneburg; the see, the chapter, the convents and the Catholic charitable institutions were finally secularized. The territory of the see passed to Prussia in 1806, to the Kingdom of Westphalia in 1807, to Napoleonic France in 1810, and again to Hanover in 1814. Klemens von Gruben, titular Bishop of Paros, was made vicar Apostolic, and as such cared for the spiritual interests of the Catholic population.
Under Pope Leo XII the Papal Bull Impensa Romanorum Pontificum (26 March 1824) re-established the See of Osnabrück as an exempt see, i.e., immediately subject to Rome. This Bull, recognized by the civil authority, promised that, for the present, the Bishop of Hildesheim would be also Bishop of Osnabrück, but had to be represented at Osnabrück by a vicar-general and an auxiliary bishop, and this lasted for thirty years.
This diocese, comprised within the Kingdom of Hanover, the Landdrosteien (high-bailiwicks, governorates) of Osnabrück and Aurich (excepting Wilhelmshaven) and those parts of Hanover that were west of the River Weser. In 1910 it numbered 12 deaneries, 108 parishes, 153 pastoral stations, 271 secular and 12 regular priests, with 204,500 Catholic faithful. The only religious communities of men were the Capuchin convent at Clemenswerth and the Apostolic School of the Marists at Meppen. The religious orders of women include Benedictines, Borromeans, Franciscans, Ursulines and others.
As Apostolic administrator, the bishop was Vicar Apostolic of the Northern Missions of Germany and Prefect-Apostolic of Schleswig-Holstein (as of 1868). According to the Bull Impensa Romanorum (26 March 1824), he was elected by the chapter of the cathedral, composed of a dean, six canons and four vicars, elected in turn by the bishop and by the chapter.
Klemens von Gruben was succeeded by the auxiliary bishop Karl Anton von Lüpke, also administrator of the North German Missions. After his death new negotiations led to the endowment of a new independent see. Pope Pius IX, with the consent of King George V of Hanover, appointed Paulus Melchers of Münster as bishop on 3 August 1857. In 1866 the territory of the diocese passed, with Hanover, to Prussia (Province of Hanover); Melchers became Archbishop of Cologne, and was succeeded in 1866 by Johannes Heinrich Beckmann (1866-78), who was succeeded by Bernhard Höting (1882-98) after a vacancy of four years owing to the Kulturkampf. The next bishop (to 1911), Hubert Voss, was appointed 12 April 1899.
In 1930, following the Prussian Concordat, the Prefecture of Schleswig-Holstein and the Northern Missions of Germany, comprising several Protestant areas of Northern Germany, were added to the diocese: Hamburg, Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Schaumburg-Lippe (the latter ceded to Hildesheim diocese in 1965). On the same occasion Osnabrück became again a suffragan of Cologne.
In 1995, the northern parts of the Diocese (Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg) were made into the newly founded Archdiocese of Hamburg. Osnabrück became subordinate to this Archdiocese of Hamburg. The current bishop is Franz-Josef Bode.
Prince-Bishops of Osnabrück include: