We might say that Germany today is the exemplar of a desacralized Europe. And within Germany the city of Berlin is among the least Christian. Yet, we find here a growing community of priests dedicated to the celebration of the Traditional liturgy: the Institute of St Philip Neri.1) The congregation on weekdays is small – but on Sundays it reaches 120 and is growing. In a region so alienated from the Faith, that’s a significant achievement. Indeed, it may be advantageous for a Traditionalist order to start from scratch than to try an negotiate the political minefields of more “Catholic” regions of Germany.
I recently visited the St. Afra church, located a little outside the center of the city. St Afra, in the hands of the Insitute since 2006-2008, was built for the “Gray Sisters” in 1898 as an interesting urban complex of church, school and convent. (A significant part of the construction cost was provided by the descendants of the famous German legal scholar Friedrich Carl von Savigny) The facade features elaborate brickwork; inside one proceeds along arched passages and through heavy medieval-style doors to reach the church. The Institute has done much to restore and beautify the church, often using objects from churches that have been closed or demolished. In 2015 an English organ was installed. By the way, the entire oeuvre of Martin Mosebach seemed to be on sale in the back of the church – an excellent sign! ( Mr. Mosebach has spoken at St. Afra’s)
It was dark already by the time I reached the church at 6:00 PM. On this weekday evening low mass was celebrated in a side chapel, followed by the singing of vespers in the main sanctuary. A memorable experience on such a chill and gloomy night! As we have so often seen elsewhere, Traditionalist communities and apostolates continue to rise up – even in those places where, humanly speaking, all hope would seem to have vanished.
(Above and below) The interior of the Church of St. Afra – preparing for vespers.
For more information see the WEBSITE of the Institute
For more on the buildings of St Afra (in German) see HERE.
1. “Our community life is modelled on the Oratory but we do not call ourselves Oratorians so as not to encounter any diplomatic or juridical difficulties with the existing Oratorian communities.” SOURCE