Bishop Joseph Werth is Awarded the Federal Cross of Merit

Verleihung des Bundesverdiesntkreuzes an Bischof Josph Werth

"Bishop Joseph Werth is Awarded the Federal Cross of Merit." Volk auf dem Weg, April 2006, 3-4.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Bishop Joseph Werth following his acceptance of the award

On September 26, 2005 the bishop's church "Verklaerung des Herrn" [Transfiguration of the Lord] celebrated an extraordinary event as Bishop Joseph Werth was awarded the Federal ross of Merit for his contributions to the Federal Republic of Germany. In attendance were the German Ambassador in Russia, along with his wife, the German General Counsel at Novosibirsk and his wife, representatives of the State, the Church and of social organizations, as well as the faithful of the bishop's church.

In his acceptance speech, Bishop Werth commented as follows (excerpted).

"Honored Ambassador, through you I wish to express to the President of Germany, Herr Koehler, my sincere thanks for this decoration.

What should I do, and what am I to day? I shall not attempt to persuade you that I do not merit this high honor.

In reality, with today's awarding of this order of merit, the Catholic Church in Russia and its German-Russians are being honored. If that were not so, I could scarcely imagine this award being possible. It is into this Church and into this People that I was born, and a Catholic and a German-Russian I shall remain.

The first memories from my childhood are associated with the happy events of the religious climate of "thawing" in the mid-1950s, which followed the long dark night of persecution and suppression. I must not neglect to express my gratitude to all those priests and lay people, those pioneering fighters of the 1950s, including my own mother, who for us children was both teacher and priest and who passed on to the Lord on July 23 of this year; to the simple person of faith, Frau Gertrude, who prepared me for receiving the sacraments; to certain people of the clergy including Bishop Alexander Chira, Father Bukowinski, Father Stephanus, who under impossible circumstances performed their duties secretly and illegally in the underground. All of these have meanwhile gone to the Lord.

When the Catholic Church finally received official status in 1991, the Holy See thought it proper to send me to Novosibirsk in order to establish at least the minimum of ecclesiastical structures required to make it possible to visit and spiritually serve our people scattered across 13 million square kilometers. My gratitude today also goes to my fellows in the struggle who followed the call for help and today, under difficult circumstances, continue to perform their duties. Also thanks to the faithful, who overcame fear and the post-Soviet syndrome and who streamed to the newly opened churches and prayer houses. I can't say how today's teaching of history interprets the 'role of personality throughout history,' but I would like to say that it is due to the multitude of workers in the Lord's vineyard -- and thanks to the prayers and actions of the faithful -- that the Catholic Church in Siberia is what it is today, with its pastoral and social services for the people. Finally, gratitude for all acts of assistance and support goes to our benefactors abroad and to State authorities in the new Russia.

I wish to thank Germany for all they have done for our more than two million German-Russian emigrants during the past 15 - 20 years. I wish for special consideration by the Catholic Church in Germany on behalf of them, who come from a very Catholic tradition, even though they were born and raised in an atheistic country. I believe that the fact that so many of our people call both Germany and Russia their home country can contribute to good relations between these countries and to build firm bridges between them.

May God bless and protect Germany and Russia!"

We wish to add our own congratulations and thanks to his Excellency, Bishop Joseph Werth, our longtime friend, whose word and support we have always valued. We also thank him for always encouraging us and that he made the effort, and continues his efforts, on behalf of the emigre Germans from Russia, for his concrete assistance, his cooperation despite a heavy workload and his own worries and responsibilities that cannot be compared with our own situation concerning spiritual care. There was not a single year that he did not participate in our events and pilgrimages. He always put in a good word with governmental, ecclesiastical and social representatives, for the problems and needs of his German-Russian compatriots in Germany. His word was always heard and followed.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller