Kardinal josef frings

Sculpture of Frings in Cologne.

Josef Richard Frings (February 6, 1887—December 17, 1978), was a German Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Cologne from 1942 to 1969, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.


Early life and ordination

Frings Fühlingen01

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

Josef Frings was born as the second 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 August 10, 1910, he received his ordination to the priesthood.

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.

Archbishop of Cologne

On May 1, 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 were allowed to report the consecration, 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 was a fierce and outspoken opponent of Hitler and Nazism during World War II. After the war, Frings—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 February 18, 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 dogma of the Assumption of Mary, whose proclamation he personally attended November 1, 1950. Pope Pius XII credited him for participation and signing the related Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus. [1] In 1954, Frings initiated the diocesan godparenthood between the Archbishopric of Cologne and the Archbishopric of Tokyo, one of the first archdiocesan partnerships within the Catholic Church. In 1958 he was the initiator of the social relief organisation Misereor. The relief organisation 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 citzienship 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. 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 das 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.


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) he demanded a time of "getting known to each other" of the council fathers before the act of deciding about the compilation of the council commissions, he delayed execution of the plans developed by the curia. His speech—predominantly composed by Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, who served as Frings' theological expert, or peritus at the Council—about the Holy Office, which the prelate perceived as too conservative and authoritarian, had tremendous effects and eventually led to its reorganisation as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Retirement and death

In 1963, Frings became philister of honor of the K.St.V. Arminia Bonn in the KV and on May 3 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 to scientifically explore the life and work of the Cardinal and make the knowledge accessible to a broader public. On August 12, 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, as the current Archbishop of Cologne. On June 24, 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" which is synonym for "theft of food". The expression dates back on his New year's Eve sermon which he held on December 31, 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 a grim winter
We live in times where the single individual is allowed to take what is necessary to preserve his life and health when he cannot receive it by hard work or bidding
Accordingly the term "fringsen" was referred to organising food and coal or burning material for the winter among Cologne citizens.


  • "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


  • 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
Preceded by
Adolf Bertram
Chairman of the Fulda Conference of Catholic Bishops
Succeeded by
Julius Döpfner
Preceded by
Karl Joseph Schulte
Coat of arms of Heiner Koch
Archbishop of Cologne

Succeeded by
Joseph II. Höffner

External links


  1. Pio XII, Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, Vol. XII, 1951, 492
cs:Joseph Fringsla:Iosephus Fringsno:Joseph Fringspt:Joseph Frings

ksh:Joseph Kardinal Frings fi:Josef Frings

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