By JENNIE HAWTHORNE
I. I-TAD seen Cardinal Frings imany times before, saying Mass in Cologne Cathedral-that lovely building which at night merges with and becomes part of the sky -at cultural and social conferences, at ordinations and consecrations, but never before at such close quarters.
There was a reassuring twinkle in his eye as he led the way to his study and said, almost as if he was thoughtreading : "My English is as good as none at all."
First, what is the position of Catholics in the East Zone? Arc they experiencing any difficulty in the practice of their religion?
Before answering these questions, Cardinal Flings explained that 45.2 per cent, (1950) of the population in the Bundes Republik is Catholic (and a large proportion of these live in the Rhineland), whereas the number in the East Zone is 12.2 per cent (1946).
The East Zone Catholics experience no actual difficulty in going to Mass or the sacraments, but there is everywhere a feeling of psychological pressure.
They can stay away
There are no organised Catholic groups even of young people, and when it is possible to give religious instruction in the schools, children can always absent themselves.
There is, however, much individual courage, a factor which is of the utmost importance in encouraging the faithful in the Eastern Zone.
"My first endeavour after the war," the Cardinal said to me, "was to build up again the interiors. and exteriors of the churches in my diocese.
"Several hundred churches were in need of repair, more than 200 needed rebuilding. We are still in the middle of this work.
"The old Catholic organisations which had been crippled by the war and the Hitler regime needed reawakening, and new ones corresponding with new needs had to be founded.
-"The millions of displaced persons fromthe East required special organisations. In the first years after the war ended, German prisoners of war had to be visited.
"As early as 1946 I was in Italy and England for this purpose, and enjoyed the especially kind hospitality of His Eminence Cardinal Griffin and his Lordship Bishop Ellis of Nottingham.
One of the greatest problems in Germany today, the Cardinal told me, is finding enough nuns for the active congregations, particularly in schools and hospitals. Nun-teachers for grammar schools are urgently needed.
Contemplative, enclosed. orders are receiving enough postulants for their current needs, but the active congregations, even when of quite modern foundation, are experiencing difficulty not only in finding but in keeping postulants. Many of the novices leave the convents, often in their second or third year. Cardinal Frings said that there is perhaps more opportunity nowadays for energetic Catholic young women to combine their Catholicism with some form of social apostolate, and thus active work as a nun has not the same appeal as before.
Modem efforts to improve family life have also perhaps dettacted from the appeal of the cloister, but the Pope himself in his Encyclical on virginity had emphasised the precedence enjoyed by those who practise the rule of chastity, poverty and obedience.
His Eminence observed that there is no lack of vocations amongst young men. The numbers have increased steadily since the war, and in the diocese of Cologne this year, 80 men are in their final year of study for the priesthood.
This, he remarked, is an extremely good figure for roughly 30 per cent. of all students presenting themselves do not complete their studies.
I asked the Cardinal if he had any suggestions for the young ladies who desired marriage, but who, judging by t h e correspondence in THE CATHOLIC HERALD, have difficulty in finding the right young man.
His Eminence replied that finding the right young man is not only an English problem. It exists in Germany too, for the number of socalled "surplus women" is higher there than anywhere else in Europe.
But a co-ordinated German youth group movement, with branches in every county and town, does help in great measure to ensure that young people of 18-25 years of age can enjoy social activities in a Catholic atmosphere. It helps also to stem the leakage problem.
A great deal too is done by individual effort, particularly in the areas where the number of Catholics is small.
The Cardinal said that he had been very impressed with the work of the Catholic Workers' College at Oxford, and told me of a similar college which he blessed on May 2 this year and is now running the first residential course for Catholic workers ever attempted in Germany.
His Eminence hoped that from this nucleus of well-informed and welltrained Catholic workers would spread the truth of their religion in their own factories aind workshops.
The German college at Honnef differs from the one at Oxford in that it runs for one ycar only, takes 22 men (no women) between the ages of 20 and 30, and is not in any way attached to a university. The domestic arrangements are organised by Augustinian nuns.
The building, too, is very much better planned and equipped than the one at Oxford.
But the aim of both places, at Honnef and at Oxford. is essentially the same-the development of working men so that they shall be better equipped spiritually to cope with the problems of industrial life and to play their part in the redemption of the society in which they live.
I asked Cardinal Frings if he would give me his impressions of his recent visit to England for the St. Boniface celebrations.
His Eminence replied :
"On my last visit to England, I was very impressed hv the firm belief of English Catholics, and especially by the great reverence shown to all those who had suffered martyrdom for their holy faith.
"St. Boniface put the seal to his missionary work by his death for Christ. This was the triumphant conclusion to his life and is the main reason for the reverence which he enjoys.
"We honoured. too, another martyr. Blessed Cuthbert Mayne-and were witnesses of the great trust and keen veneration given to him by English Catholics.
"Fortunate indeed is the Church
in which martyrdom for Christ is held in such high honour."