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Geschicht vun der Diözees . Histoire du diocèse  
31 January 2017

Church and Religion in Luxembourg

The Christianization, which expanded from Christian-Roman Trier, reached the territory of Luxembourg from the fourth century onward and gradually replaced the pagan faith. In the 6th-7th century, through the course of Christian consolidation, extensive mother-parishes were created, which were later divided up and gradually gave way to today’s parish system. In this second evangelization wave, Echternach was given great importance. It served as a base for the frieze mission of the monk and bishop Willibrord (658-739), who came from England. He founded a monastery in this city, which grew up into an important Benedictine abbey with a lively cultural radiance. The Echternacher Basilika still retains the remains of the Anglo-Saxon Saint Patron of the Land and are revered at the annual dancing procession.

The great monastic and religious families settled in medieval Luxembourg: Benedictines (Echternach, Münster / Luxembourg, St. Hubert) and the Cistercians (Orval, Clairefontaine), followed by Franciscans, Dominicans, Poor Clares, Augustinian nuns, etc. They had a defining influence on pastoral care, spirituality and culture. By the work of the Jesuits, who had been active here since 1594, Luxembourg was hardly affected through the Reformation. The Jesuits promoted, in times of plague and war, the veneration of Our Lady as “Comforter of the Afflicted”, she has been chosen as the patroness of the city (1666) and of the duchy of Luxembourg (1678). This devotion remains alive today by a national pilgrimage, the “Octave”, which is celebrated every year for two weeks in the period after Easter. After the dissolution of the French Revolution the founding of new orders and congregations in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century took place, some of them are still present today in the social and educational sector, as well as in the pastoral and contemplative sphere: sisters of the Order of Saint Elisabeth, sisters of Saint Francis of the Divine Mercy, sisters of the Christian doctrine, sisters of the Poor Child Jesus, Lay Carmelites, Benedictine of the Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament; Redemptorists, Charitable Friars, Priests of the Sacred-Heart, Benedictine in Clervaux, etc. Their continued existence is questioned by the lack of vocations, but their works are secured for the future by new charitable organizations, such as the caritas.

Since the Middle Ages Luxembourg’s church has been divided among several bishoprics (mainly Trier and Liège), but by the concordat Bonaparte in 1801 it came to the bishopric of Metz. In 1823 it was annexed to the Dutch diocese of Namur, and in 1840, after a considerable reduction of the country by the separation of the Belgian province of Luxembourg, it was established as an Apostolic Vicariate dependent on Rome. The Apostolic Vicar Jean-Théodore Laurent (1841-48) created the prerequisites for an independent diocese by means of religious and school legislation, new parish and deanery structures and the establishment of the priestly seminar. However, it was not until 1870 that it was founded as such. In 1988 Saint Pope John Paul II raised it to an Archdiocese. 8 episcopates fill the time span of the church in Luxembourg: Nicolas Adames (1870-1883), Jean-Joseph Koppes (1983-1918), Pierre Nommesch (1920-1935), Joseph Philippe (1935-1956), Léon Lommel (1956-1971), Jean Hengen (1971-1991), Fernand Franck (1991-2011) and Jean-Claude Hollerich (since 2011).

In the state of Luxembourg, the church played a religious and ideological unity as a valued patriotic role, especially during the Second World War. In the period of modern secularization, it slowly lost its almost exclusive influence power, but Catholicism, despite the decline in religious practice, remains a strong component in the existing pluralism of opinion. Since the end of the nineteenth century and, most recently, by the importance of Luxembourg as the seat of important EU authorities, other Christian churches have taken the form of minority groups: Protestants, Anglicans, different Orthodox groups have settled here and since the Balkan War also a considerable Islamic minority.

The relationship between state and church is governed by mutually recognized autonomy and forms of cooperation through the Luxembourg Constitution, several laws and a series of conventions. Collaboration in the social-charitable and educational sectors (Catholic religious education in public schools, co-financing of private schools) is an integral part of this system. The ministers of the main Christian churches as well as the Jewish community are paid by the state by law.

The Roman Catholic Church, which was still represented by a majority, sought to meet the modern requirements through the 4th Luxembourger Diocesan Synod in the line of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). In 1972-81, the church tried to position herself and Catholicism in the sense of dialogue and opening up to the world in the modern culture. This includes the realization of the growing European vocation and the active relationship with many overarching ecclesiastical authorities as well as inner-church renewal and pastoral initiatives. The ecumenism between the different Christian denominations will be tangible at the level of the Council of Christian Churches, established in Luxembourg in 1997.

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