BONIFATIUS-VEREIN ("Boniface Society"): A Roman Catholic society of Germany, having as its object "to promote the spiritual interests of Catholics living in Protestant parts of Germany, and the maintenance of schools" (by-laws, § 1). The tendency toward freer relations between different confessions and shifting of confessional connections in Germany in the earlier years of the nineteenth century aroused the anxiety of the Church of Rome. According to a statement in the Ultramontane Münchener historisch-politische Blätter (lxviii, 45) the Roman Church lost between 1802 and 1870 more than 500,000 souls in South Germany, whereas the loss in North Germany between 1802 and 1850 was estimated at one million. The "Francis Xavier Society," which had its headquarters at Lyons in France, and properly speaking was a missionary society, took care of the "missions" in Germany as far as possible; but until 1848 no Roman Catholic church or school could be established in Germany without the consent of the government. These restrictions were done away with in 1848, and when the third convention of Roman Catholics met at Regensburg, Oct. 4, 1849, at the suggestion of Döllinger, at that time an ardent champion of Rome, and of Count Josef von Stolberg, son of the famous convert Frederick Leopold von Stolberg, the Bonifatius-Verein was founded. Paderborn was chosen as the center of operation. Pius IX approved the society, Apr. 21, 1852, and Leo XIII favored the priests belonging to it with indulgences, Mar. 15, 1901. In Bavaria the society was not favorably received at first on account of similar societies already existing, and in North Germany it seemed to be a failure by 1853. But after 1857, owing to the exertions of Bishop Martin of Paderborn and of Alban Stolz, it progressed rapidly and in 1899 celebrated the golden jubilee of its successful activity.
The society obtains the means necessary for carrying on its work in various ways: (1) from collections in, the churches; (2) from private persons who obligate themselves to pay for a number of years the minister's salary in a certain congregation; (3) from donations to a permanent endowment fund; (4) from societies which collect seemingly worthless objects, as cigar ends, corks, and the like; the income from these societies, used particularly for orphan asylums and like institutions, amounted from 1885 to 1891 to 1,490,539 marks; (5) from the profits of the Bonifatius printing-house and the Bonifatius second-hand book-stall at Paderborn; (6) from periodicals and pamphlets; (7) from academical Bonifatius societies, which built the Catholic church at Greifswald; (8) from societies of a like character, as the "Boniface Society of the Catholic Noblemen of Silesia," the "Boniface Society of Catholic Ladies for Church Vestments and Furniture," and others. The aggregate receipts from all these sources between 1849 and 1899 were 36,000,000 marks; and between 1849 and 1901 more than 29,000,000 marks were expended for 2,240 stations. In 1902 the revenues aggregated 442,000 marks, and expenditures 310,000 marks.
The territory of the Bonifatius-Verein comprises Germany, Austria with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Denmark, and Luxembourg. In Germany special attention is paid to the Protestant parts of Prussia, above all Berlin; Saxony, Brunswick, and Mecklenburg are also regarded as missionary fields. In Bavaria, Nuremberg, formerly wholly Protestant, is especially an object of the propaganda in order to connect the northern and southern parts of Bavaria.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. J. Kleffner and F. W. Woker, Der Bonifacius-Verein. Seine Geschichte, seine Arbeit und sein Arbeitsfeld, 1849-1899, 2 parts, Paderborn, 1899; Bonifaciusblatt, ib. 1853 sqq.; Schlesisches Bonifacius-Vereins-Blatt, Breslau, 1880 sqq.
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