Clemens August Graf von Galen
|Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen|
"Lion of Münster"
March 16, 1878|
Dinklage Castle, Dinklage, Grand Duchy of Oldenburg, German Confederation
|Died||March 22, 1946
Münster, Province of Westphalia, Allied-occupied Germany
|Beatified||9 October 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI|
The Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen (March 16, 1878 – March 22, 1946) was a German count, Bishop of Münster, and cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. A German nationalist and aristocrat, he became an important figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism. During World War Two, Galen led Catholic protest against Nazi euthanasia and denounced Gestapo lawlessness and the persecution of the church. He was appointed as Cardinal by Pope Pius XII in 1946. He was beatified by the German Pope Benedict XVI, in 2005.
Born into a venerable noble family, von Galen received part of his education in Austria from the Jesuits at the Stella Matutina School in the border town of Feldkirch, on the Austrian border with Switzerland and Liechtenstein. After his ordination he worked in Berlin at Saint Matthias, where he became a close friend of Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli, later to be Pope Pius XII. He disliked intensely the liberal values of the Weimar Republic and was against individualism, socialism, and democracy. Having served in Berlin parishes in years 1906–1929, he became the pastor of Münster's St. Lamberti Church, where he was noted for his political conservatism. A staunch German patriot, he judged that the Treaty of Versailles was unjust and that Bolshevism was a threat to Germany and the Church. He expressed his opposition to modernity in his book Die Pest des Laizismus und ihre Erscheinungsformen [The Plague of Laicism and its Forms of Expression] (1932).
While remaining a staunch nationalist, and supporting some of the "patriotic" aims of the National Socialist government, Galen began to criticize Hitler's movement in 1934. He condemned the Nazi worship of race in a pastoral letter on January 29, 1934, and assumed responsibility for the publication of a pamphlet of essays criticizing the ideology of Nazi ideologist, Alfred Rosenberg, and defending the teachings of the Catholic Church. He was an outspoken critic of certain Nazi policies and, together with Munich's Cardinal Faulhaber and Berlin's Bishop Preysing, assisted with the drafting of Pope Pius XI's 1937 anti-Nazi encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge or, "With Burning Concern." In 1941 he earned the moniker "Lion of Munster", and cemented a reputation as one of the German Church's most outspoken critics of the Third Reich, following a powerful series of sermons denouncing the "euthanising" of invalids, attacks on the Church and human rights. The sermons were illegally circulated, inspiring some German Resistance groups.
Galen belonged to one of the oldest of the most distinguished noble families of Westphalia, and was born in the Catholic southern part of the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg (Oldenburger Münsterland, about 50 miles east of the German border with the Netherlands), on the Burg Dinklage, now in the state of Lower Saxony. The von Galen name had long been associated with the region; the von Galens had been there since 1667, when Christoph Bernhard von Galen was named first bishop of Münster after putting down the Anabaptists, "leaving the bodies of the heretics to rot in cages lining the city's gates." Clemens August was the son of Count Ferdinand Heribert von Galen, a member of the Imperial German parliament (Reichstag) for the Catholic Centre Party, and Elisabeth von Spee, the eleventh of thirteen children.
Until 1890 Clemens August and his brother Franz were tutored at home. He received his main schooling at a Jesuit School, Stella Matutina in the Vorarlberg, Austria, where only Latin was allowed to be spoken. Jesuits were not permitted in Münster at this time, evidence of the lasting impact of the Kulturkampf, so Clemens had to leave his family and state to receive this Jesuit education. He was not an easy student to teach, and his Jesuit superior wrote to his parents: "Infallibility is the main problem with Clemens, who under no circumstance will admit that he may be wrong. It is always his teachers and educators who are wrong.
Because Prussia did not recognize the Stella Matutina academy, Clemens spent the last years of his education near home. In 1894 he returned home to attend a public school in Vechta and by 1896 both Clemens and Franz had passed the examinations that qualified them to attend a university. Upon graduation, his fellow students wrote in his yearbook: "Clemens doesn't make love or go drinking, he does not like worldly deceit." By 1896 he went to Switzerland to study at the Catholic University of Freiburg, which had been established in 1886 by the Dominicans, where he encountered the writings of Thomas Aquinas. In 1897 he began to study a variety of topics, including literature, history, and philosophy. Following the first winter semester at Freiburg, Clemens and Fritz went on an extended visit to Rome, for three months. At the end of the visit he told Fritz that he had decided to become a priest though he was unsure whether to become a contemplative Benedictine, or a Jesuit. In 1899 he met Pope Leo XIII in a private audience. He studied at the Theological Faculty and Convent in Innsbruck, founded in 1669 by the Jesuits, where scholastic philosophy was emphasized, and new concepts and ideas avoided. In 1903 von Galen left Innsbruck to enter the seminary in Münster, and he was ordained a priest on May 28, 1904. At first he worked for a family member, the Auxiliary Bishop of Münster, as Chaplain.
Soon he moved to Berlin, where he worked as parish priest at St. Matthias.
In Berlin (1906–1929)
Von Galen arrived in Berlin on April 23, 1906, and stayed until April 16, 1929—the longest time he spent in any one place. Germany's capital contained districts of Protestant elites, a Catholic community composed of primarily working-class people and a Jewish community of both middle-class and poorer immigrants. It was a booming commercial and cultural metropolis at the time von Galen arrived—its population increased from 900,000 in 1871 to slightly less than 4 million by 1920. Religion did not bring the community together—"religion and fears of a loss of religious belief came to be a major source of internal division." For the working class, Catholicism and Social Democracy competed for allegiance. In this atmosphere, von Galen sought to be an energetic and idealistic leader of his parish. He made visits to the sick and poor, became president of the Catholic Young Men's Association, gave religious instruction in the schools, and for his efforts he was named Papa Galen by the parishioners he served.
In the First World War Von Galen's position was that he wished to serve, and volunteered to serve, in order to demonstrate his loyalty to the Kaiser. As parish priest, he encouraged his parishioners to serve their country willingly. In August 1917 he made a visit to the front lines in France and was uplifted by the optimistic disposition of the troops. "Feelings of German nationalism, apparently, could triumph over concern for the violations of the sanctity of human life in war." In 1916 and 1917 he reacted to reports concerning the German military's planned colonization of Eastern Europe by welcoming the plan of occupation and stating that German Catholics should be moved into the area, especially in Lithuania; his goal not being to expel the Letts, but rather to educate them to think and feel as Germans. Following the German surrender in November 1918 von Galen, still in Berlin, dreaded the loss of the monarchy and feared the poor would embrace radicalism and anarchy. To deal with immediate problems of hunger and poverty he worked to create soup kitchens, aid societies, and clothing drives. He was suspicious of the new Weimar democracy and believed "the revolutionary ideas of 1918 had caused considerable damage to Catholic Christianity." Throughout the Weimar years he remained on the right of German politics. He often criticized the Catholic Centre Party for being too left-wing. He believed the Dolchstosslegende explained the German Army's defeat in 1918—that Germany had been destroyed by defeatist elements on the home front. He deplored the disappearance of the monarchy.
Bishop of Münster
A commanding presence (6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) tall)—his rooms were furnished simply, he wore unpretentious clothing, and he spoke plainly—he did not like the theatre, secular music (except for military marches), or literature. His only reported vice, which he refused to give up, was smoking his pipes.
Having moved from Berlin, he became the pastor of Münster's St. Lambert's Church where he initially upset some parishioners with his political conservatism. At a meeting in Münster of the Association of Catholic Academicians in June 1933, Galen spoke against those scholars who had criticised the Nazi government and called for a just and objective evaluation of [Hitler's] new political movement. Von Galen was elected bishop of Münster in 1933. Documents in the Vatican Archives, which opened related information in 2003, indicate that von Galen was not the popular candidate to succeed Münster's bishop, Johannes Poggenburg, and was elected only after other candidates had turned down the offer, and in spite of a protest from Nuncio Orsenigo to Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who expressed his opinion that von Galen was bossy and paternalistic in his public utterances. He was chosen for the office by Pius XI on September 5, 1933. On October 28, he was consecrated as bishop in Münster's cathedral. Storm troopers attended, standing in formation with swastika flags.
Once elected, von Galen campaigned against the totalitarian approach of the Nazi Party in national education, appealing to parents to insist on Catholic teaching in schools. He successfully used the recently agreed-upon Reichskonkordat (§ 21, granting the Church the right to determine its own religious instruction) to force the National Socialists to permit continued Catholic instruction in Catholic schools. It was one of the first instances where the Reichskonkordat was used by the Church as a legal instrument opposing the government, which was one of the intentions of Pope Pius XI. When in 1933, the Nazi school superintendent of Münster issued a decree that religious instruction be combined with discussion of the "demoralising power" of the "people of Israel", Galen refused, writing that such interference in curriculum was a breach of the Concordat and that he feared children would be confused as to their "obligation to act with charity to all men" and as to the historical mission of the people of Israel. Often Galen directly protested to Hitler over violations of the Concordat. When in 1936, Nazis removed crucifixes in school, protest by Galen led to public demonstration. Like Presying, he assisted with the drafting of the 1937 papal encyclical.
In 1934, Bishop von Galen began to attack the racial ideologies of the new regime, partly poking fun at it, partly critiquing its ideological basis as published by Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg. He declared it unacceptable to refuse the Old Testament on the grounds of its Jewish authorship, and to limit morality and virtue to the perceived usefulness of a particular race. In January 1934, he criticised Nazi racial policy in a sermon and, in subsequent homilies, equated unquestioning loyalty to the Reich with "slavery", and spoke against Hitler's theory of the purity of German blood. In response to Alfred Rosenberg's The Myth of the Twentieth Century, Galen derided the neo-pagan theories of Rosenberg as perhaps no more than "an occasion for laughter in the educated world", but warned that "his immense importance lies in the acceptance of his basic notions as the authentic philosophy of National Socialism and in his almost unlimited power in the field of German education. Herr Rosenberg must be taken seriously if the German situation is to be understood."
In retaliation, the Bishop was visited by two senior SS officers. Both were instructed to pressure the Bishop into openly expressing approval of Rosenberg's doctrines. If he refused to do so, they were ordered to threaten him with the confiscation of Church property and an anti-Catholic propaganda campaign. One of his visitors was future SS General Jurgen Stroop. Stroop later recalled, "Bishop von Galen was a great gentleman, a true aristocrat, a Renaissance prince of the Church. He welcomed us politely but with reserve." The visit began well, with Bishop von Galen commending Stroop's mother for her devout Catholicism. Then, however, the Bishop turned the table on his two visitors. He categorically refused to accept or praise Rosenberg's doctrines of euthanising or forcibly sterilizing the disabled. To Stroop's further shock, the Bishop then denounced the Nazis for trying to introduce Germanic neo-paganism into his diocese. He scoffed at marriage ceremonies and funerals conducted before altars dedicated to Wotan. Stroop, who had attended such a ceremony only days before, was stunned that the Bishop had learned of it so quickly. At the end of the meeting, the Bishop stated that the Church would remain loyal to the State in all lawful matters. He expressed his deep love for Germany and reminded them that he had been the first bishop to publically acknowledge the new regime. Stroop later lamented the fact that Bishop von Galen's German patriotism, "was tainted by Papist ideals, which have been harmful to Germany for centuries. Besides, the Archbishop's orders came from outside the Fatherland, a fact which disturbed us. We all know that despite its diverse factions, the Catholic Church is a world community, which sticks together when the chips are down."
After constant confrontations, by late 1935, Bishop von Galen of Münster was urging a joint pastoral letter protesting an "underground war" against the church. By early 1937, the church hierarchy in Germany, which had initially attempted to co-operate with the new government, had become highly disillusioned. In March, Pope Pius XI issued the Mit brennender Sorge or, "With Burning Concern," encyclical - accusing the Nazi Government of violations of the 1933 Concordat, and further that it was sowing the "tares of suspicion, discord, hatred, calumny, of secret and open fundamental hostility to Christ and His Church". Galen was part of the five-member commission that prepared the papal encyclical. The Nazis responded with, an intensification of the Church Struggle. There were mass arrests of clergy and church presses were expropriated.
"Lion of Münster"
While the Nazi Final Solution liquidation of the Jews took place primarily on Polish territory, the murder of invalids took place on German soil, and involved interference in Catholic (and Protestant) welfare institutions. Awareness of the murderous programme therefore became widespread, and the Church leaders who opposed it - chiefly Bishop von Galen, and Dr Theophil Wurm (the Protestant Bishop of Württemberg) were able to rouse widespread public opposition. From 1939, the regime began its program of "euthanasia". The senile, the mentally handicapped and mentally ill, epileptics, cripples, children with Down's Syndrome and people with similar afflictions were all to be killed. The programme involved the systematic murder of more than 70,000 people.
In 1941, with the Wehrmacht still marching on Moscow, Galen, despite his long-time nationalist sympathies, denounced the lawlessness of the Gestapo, the confiscations of church properties and the cruel programme of Nazi euthanasia. He attacked the Gestapo for converting church properties to their own purposes - including use as cinemas and brothels. He protested the mistreatment of Catholics in Germany: the arrests and imprisonment without legal process, the suppression of the monasteries, the expulsion of religious orders. But his sermons went further than defending the church, he spoke of a moral danger to Germany from the regime's violations of basic human rights: "the right to life , to inviolability, and to freedom is an indispensable part of any moral social order", he said - and any government that punishes without court proceedings "undermines its own authority and respect for its sovereignty within the conscience of its citizens". Galen said that it was the duty of Christians to resist the taking of human life, even if it meant losing their own lives.
Hitler's order for the T4 Euthanasia Programme was dated 1 September 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland. As word of the programme spread, protest grew, until finally, Bishop von Galen delivered his famous August 1941 sermons denouncing the programme as "murder". On 3 August 1941, in one of his series of denunciations, von Galen declared:
"Thou shalt not kill." God engraved this commandment on the souls of men long before any penal code... God has engraved these commandments in our hearts... They are the unchangeable and fundamental truths of our social life... Where in Germany and where, here, is obedience to the precepts of God? [...] As for the first commandment, "Thou shalt not have strange gods before me," instead of the One, True, Eternal God, men have created at the dictates of their whim, their own gods to adore: Nature, the State, the Nation, or the Race.
- 1941 sermons
His three powerful sermons of July and August 1941 earned him the nickname of the "Lion of Münster". The sermons were printed and distributed illegally. Hitler wanted to have von Galen removed, but Goebbels told him this would result in the loss of the loyalty of Westphalia. The sermons protested against Nazi policies on euthanasia, Gestapo terror, forced sterilization and concentration camps. His attacks on the Nazis were so severe that Nazi official Walter Tiessler proposed in a letter to Martin Bormann that the Bishop be executed.
On July 13, 1941, von Galen publicly attacked the regime for its Gestapo tactics of terror, including disappearances without trial, the closing of Catholic institutions without any stated justifications, and the resultant fear imposed on all Germans throughout the nation. The powerful Gestapo, he argued, reduced everybody, even the most decent and loyal citizens, to being afraid of ending up in a basement prison or a concentration camp. As the country was at war, von Galen rejected the notion that his speech undermined German solidarity or unity. Using the lines of his friend Pope Pius XII, as written in Opus Justitiae Pax and Justitia fundamentum Regnorum, von Galen noted that "Peace is the work of Justice and Justice, the basis for dominion," then attacked the Third Reich for undermining justice, the belief in justice and for reducing the German people to a state of permanent fear, even cowardice. He concluded: As a German, as a decent citizen I demand Justice.
In a second sermon on July 20, 1941, von Galen informed the faithful that all written protests against Nazi hostilities had proved to be useless. The confiscation of religious institutions continued unabated. Members of religious orders were still being deported or jailed. He asked his listeners to be patient and to endure, and that the German people were being destroyed not by the Allied bombing from the outside, but from negative forces within.
On August 3, 1941, von Galen informed his listeners in a third sermon about the continued desecration of Catholic churches, the closing of convents and monasteries, and the deportation and murder of mentally ill people (who were sent to undisclosed destinations), while a notice was sent to family members stating that the person in question had died. This is murder, he exclaimed, unlawful by divine and German law, a rejection of the laws of God. He informed them that he had forwarded his evidence to the State Attorney. "These are people, our brothers and sisters; maybe their life is unproductive, but productivity is not a justification for killing." If that were indeed a justification for execution, he reasoned, everybody would have to be afraid to even go to a doctor for fear of what might be discovered. The social fabric would be affected. Von Galen then remarked that a regime which can do away with the Fifth Commandment (thou shalt not kill) can destroy the other commandments as well.
Thousands of copies of the sermons were circulated across Germany. The sermons were sent to families, and to German soldiers on the Western and Eastern Fronts. Karol Wojtyla is said to have read a copy in Krakow (it is unclear whether he read a copy while already a member of the Polish Resistance, or whether the sermon itself influenced his decision to join). The resulting local protests in Germany broke the secrecy which had hitherto surrounded the euthanasia programme Aktion T4. The local Nazi Gauleiter was furious and demanded the immediate arrest of von Galen. Joseph Goebbels, Bormann, and others, preferred, however, to wait until the end of World War II, to avoid undermining German morale in a heavily Catholic area. Of von Galen's remarks, perhaps the most effective was his question asking whether permanently injured German soldiers would fall under the programme as well. A year later, the euthanasia programme was still active, but the regime was conducting it in greater secrecy.
According to Robert Jay Lifton, "[t]his powerful, populist sermon was immediately reproduced and distributed throughout Germany — indeed, it was dropped among German troops by British Royal Air Force flyers. Galen's sermon probably had a greater impact than any other one statement in consolidating anti-'euthanasia' sentiment." Howard K. Smith called von Galen "heroic", writing that the movement he represented was so widespread that the Nazi government could not arrest the bishop. Ian Kershaw called von Galen's 1941 "open attack" on the government's euthanasia programme a "vigorous denunciation of Nazi inhumanity and barbarism". According to Anton Gill, "Galen used his condemnation of this appalling policy to draw wider conclusions about the nature of the Nazi state.
The sermons inspired various people in the German Resistance. The Lübeck martyrs distributed the sermons. The Scholl siblings read the sermons, influencing their foundation of the White Rose pacifist student resistance group. One of von Galen's 1941 sermons itself was the group's first pamphlet. Generalmajor Hans Oster, a devout Lutheran and leading member of the German Resistance, once said of Bishop von Galen:
He's a man of courage and conviction. And what resolution in his sermons! There should be a handful of such people in all our churches, and at least two handfuls in the Wehrmacht. If there were, Germany would look quite different!
The published sermons of von Galen show that he condemned the racist deportations of the Nazis. Von Galen, further, suffered virtual house arrest from 1941 until the end of the war. Documents suggest the Nazis intended to hang von Galen at the end of the war. In a Table Talk from 1942, Hitler is quoted as having said: "The fact that I remain silent in public over Church affairs is not in the least misunderstood by the sly foxes of the Catholic Church, and I am quite sure that a man like Bishop von Galen knows full well that after the war I shall extract retribution to the last farthing".
Von Galen openly supported the Protestant Paul von Hindenburg against the Catholic candidate Wilhelm Marx in the presidential elections of 1925. He was known to be a German patriot and a fierce anti-Communist who favoured the battle on the Eastern Front against Joseph Stalin's regime in the Soviet Union. His views on Communism were largely formed as a consequence of the Stalinization and relentless persecution of Christians within the Soviet Union since 1918, during which virtually all Catholic bishops were either killed or forced underground. Von Galen welcomed the 1941 German war against the USSR as a positive development Many German resisters had rallied to the cause of Germany when Hitler invaded Poland, Bishop von Galen among them, offering a patriotic benediction. But with the defeat of Poland, and undoing of the last "injustices" of Versailles, many Opposition members could no longer see a need to continue the war, and looked to ways to negotiate a peace, and to oust Hitler. Hamerow wrote that the "decline of the anti-Nazi movement during the period of German military successes from 1939-1941 and its revival during the period of German military reverses from 1942-1944 reflected the primary concern of most of the resisters for the security of their nation.
In his history of the German Resistance, Theodore S. Hamerow characterised the resistance approach of von Galen as "trying to influence the Third Reich from within". While some clergymen refused ever to feign support for the regime, in the Church's conflict with the State over ecclesiastical autonomy, the Catholic hierarchy adopted a strategy of "seeming acceptance of the Third Reich", by couching their criticisms as motivated merely by a desire to "point out mistakes that that some of its overzealous followers committed" in order to strengthen the government. Thus when von Galen of Münster delivered his famous 1941 denunciations of Nazi euthanasia and the lawlessness of the Gestapo, he also said that the church had never sought the "overthrow" of the regime.
After the war, his indignation turned on the British occupiers, who, in his view, complicated by hostile acts (including starvation rations for the common people) an already difficult life in post-war Germany. The British responded by taking away his car and thus preventing him from visiting parishes and carrying out planned confirmations. On April 13, von Galen went to American authorities to protest against Russian soldiers' raping of German women, and against American and British forces' plundering of German homes, factories, and offices, especially at night. On July 1, 1945, he denounced "the ransacking of our homes[, already] destroyed by bombs", "the pillaging and destruction of our houses and farms in the countryside by armed bands of robbers", the "murder of defenceless men", "the rape of German women and girls by bestial lechers" (it was estimated that 2 million German women were raped, with a ten percent death rate mainly from suicide; women of other nationalities were raped, too), and the indifference of the occupying authorities to the risk of famine in Germany: all these horrors finding justification on the basis of "the false view that all Germans are criminals and deserve the most severe punishment, including death and extermination!".
In a joint interview with British officials, von Galen told the international press that, "just as I fought against Nazi injustices, I will fight any injustice, no matter where it comes from". He repeated these claims in a sermon on July 1, 1945, which, as in the Nazi years, was secretly copied and distributed throughout occupied Germany. The British authorities felt attacked by von Galen's sermon and ordered him to renounce it immediately; he refused. His rising popularity may have contributed to their decision to subsequently allow him free speech without any censorship. In an interview with Swiss media, von Galen demanded just punishment for real Nazi criminals but humane treatment for the millions of German prisoners of war who had not committed any crimes but were prohibited by the British from any contact with their relatives. He criticized British dismissal of Germans from public service without investigation and trial, noting that the Nazis had done the same in 1933, but that the Nazi victims had at least continued to receive pensions. He forcefully condemned the expulsion of German civilians from former German provinces and territories in the east annexed by communist Poland and the Soviet Union.
SS-General Kurt Meyer, accused of complicity in the shooting of 18 Canadian prisoners of war (POWs), was sentenced to death. Von Galen intervened at the request of the family. On second review, a Canadian general, finding only "a mass of circumstantial evidence", commuted his death sentence. Meyer served nine years in British and Canadian POW prisons. The British forces tried to get support by inviting Dr Bell, the Anglican Bishop of Chichester, to meet Von Galen for a three way-meeting in October 1945. Bell adjudged von Galen as possessing enormous moral power, a passion for justice, and well-educated behaviour, and as being very concerned for his people and a defender of ecumenical cooperation.
College of Cardinals
Unexpectedly, at Christmas 1945 it became known that Pope Pius XII would appoint three new German cardinals, one of them Bishop von Galen, who, despite numerous British obstacles and denial of air travel, arrived in Rome February 5, 1946. Generous American cardinals financed his Roman stay, as German money was not in demand. He had become famous and popular, so after the pope had placed the red hat on his head with the words: 'God bless you, God bless Germany,' Saint Peter's basilica for minutes thundered in a "triumphant applause" for von Galen. He interpreted it as "a sign of the love of the Pope for our poor German people. Before all the world he has, as a supranational and impartial observer, recognized the German people as equal in the society of nations". While in Rome, he visited the German POW camps in Taranto and told the German Wehrmacht soldiers that he would take care of their release, and that the Pope himself was working on the release of POWs. He took a large number of comforting personal messages to their worried families.
After receiving the red hat from Pope Pius XII, von Galen went to see Madre Pascalina, the faithful servant of the Pope. He told her how the Pope had quoted long passages from his 1941 sermons from memory and how he thanked him for his courage. Galen told the Pope, "Yes, Holy Father, but many of my very best priests died in concentration camps, because they distributed my sermons." Pius replied that he was always aware that thousands of innocent persons would have been sent to certain death if he as pope had protested. They talked about the old days in Berlin, and von Galen declared: "for nothing in the world would I want to have missed those two hours, not even for the red hat."
Death and beatification
Following his return from the wearisome travel to Vatican City, the new cardinal was celebrated enthusiastically in his native Westphalia and in his destroyed city of Münster, which still lay completely in ruins as a result of the air raids. He died a few days after his return from Rome in the St. Franziskus Hospital of Münster due to an appendix infection diagnosed too late. His last words were: "Yes, Yes, as God wills it. May God reward you for it. May God protect the dear fatherland. Go on working for him... oh, you dear Saviour!" He was buried in the family crypt of the von Galen family in the destroyed Cathedral of Münster.
The cause for beatification was requested by his successor, Bishop Michael Keller of Münster and began under Pope Pius XII in 1956. It was concluded positively in November 2004 under Pope John Paul II. Clemens August Graf von Galen was beatified on October 9, 2005 outside St. Peter's Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI, the 47th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius (1958).