The Pact of Turkenstein

A Positive Answer to the aggression against the Church by the powers in the French Revolution

During the French Revolution, the wave of anger against the Catholic Church rapidly took shape. The Legislative Assembly (1791), the Revolution’s second parliament, was even more extreme than the first. Thus divorce was also legalized.

The clergy, which was not included in the constitutional contract, was declared to be unworthy of trust. In August 1792, a decree against them was announced by which they were exiled.

All fraternities and welfare organizations were suppressed. The religious communities that worked in hospitals and that taught were suppressed. Thus, the poor were robbed of education for their children and of Christian love of neighbour, of care for the sick, of the Church’s mission for the sick and the handicapped.

By the Pact of Turkenstein in 1797, its participants dedicated themselves to counteracting these limitations. On Friday, June 23, 1797, on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a pact was signed, a seed from which Sion grew. The three participants, Louise Humann, Theresia Breck and the later bishop of Mainz, Joseph Ludwig Colmar, dedicated themselves to the Christian education of young people and to the care of the sick. The Turkenstein Pact is later the basis for Theodore Ratisbonne who founded Notre Dame de Sion, the work of which in the beginning was the education and care of Christians who were orphans. They placed this work under the protection of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Pact of Turkenstein was concluded during the last days of the French Revolution, a time in which the faithful suffered very much at the hands of the revolutionaries. The persecution of the priests who had not taken an oath on the constitution brought much suffering, death, and exile. The practice of the Catholic faith remained forbidden, while great cathedrals continued to be impounded or destroyed. The free practice of religion was guaranteed by Bonaparte in 1799 at the capitulation. Although the Napoleonic era brought a gradual end to the terrors of persecution by the revolutionaries, it took a long time for the pain and suffering in the Church to get better.

Many years later, in the spirit of the Pact of Turkenstein, Louise Humann, who lived in Strasbourg, opened her house to a group of philosophy students. Among these young people were Louis Bautin, the later founder of the Sisters of St. Louis, and Theodore Ratisbonne, the founder of Notre Dame de Sion. Louise Humann became the group‘s spiritual mother and was particularly important for Theodore‘s journey of faith; she baptized him on Holy Saturday, April 14, 1827, after a long journey in search of faith.