December 24th 1952 - Zeiger Ivo
† in Munich
He came from Lower Franconia. On July 29th 1898 he was born in Mömbris near Aschaffenburg in the diocese Würzburg. His parents Karl and Adelheid were simple craftsmen (tailors).
In summer 1917 he made his final examinations at the humanistic High School to Aschaffenburg. In World War I he joined the army and was attached to a machine gun department of the infantry, was twice wounded and distinguished. He survived the war as a second lieutenant of the reserve. Afterwards, as a student in Würzburng he joined the students' club 'Normannia'. At his funeral that club was represented with a delegation.
On April 5th 1921 he entered surprisingly the Society of Jesus, without getting to know any Jesuit before. In his memoirs he wrote: 'I received the vocation to the Society of Jesus by books, when I was wounded in the year 1917.'
In the noviciate of the Upper German Province in Feldkirch Father Danneffel was his Magister. Already six months before the end of the noviciate he began his studies in Innsbruck. He took part in the competition of the university. The topic of his writing read: 'The Sovereignty of the Holy See According to Dogma, Canon Law, and International Law'. He got the first prize.
He was ordained priest at his birthday 1928 in Pullach near Munich by Cardinal Faulhaber. His parents were present and also his godfather Ivo Fischer, a brother of his mother - later canon in Würzburg.
After a biennium (1929-31) at the Gregoriana in Rome a professorship for Canon Law in Insbruck was assigned to him. Occasionally he lectured also in Frankfurt (Sankt Georgen), in Valkenburg, and at the again established chair for historical
jurisprudence of the Gregoriana.
That last task he maintained also as he was appointed Rector of the Germanicum in Rome in the autumn 1939. Here his rich gift became quite effective. Father Francis Hillig wrote about that: 'His knowledge, his gift of empathy, his fine feeling for the burden of today's human existence, his sympathy, and his mental strength to inspire young people for the ideal of their vocation ...'
Still before the end of World War II he was active as a special agent of the Vatican. That led him into the camps of the allied for German prisoners of war in Italy. That mission was very successful. After the war, in October 1945, he was assigned to the chief of the Vatican Mission in Germany, Nuncio Carlo Chiarlo, who resided in Kronberg (Taunus). Soon thereafter, since summer 1946, Father Zeiger was subordinated to his successor, Excellency Alois Muench, with whom he remained connected through many years in close friendship. The farewell letter of Bishop Muench for Father Zeiger reads:
'In this hour of parting my heart is aching. I will never forget the friendly and caring kindness with which you helped me in a new and difficult field of work so gladly and readily. I have many reasons to be deeply moved because of the affectionate and helpful attention with which you were anxious about me since my arrival nearly five years ago. Your faithful friendship, your valuable assistance, the glad hours which were granted to me here in Kronberg will remain unforgettable for me. I am grateful to you with all my heart.'
Zeiger's work out from Kronberg was very intensive, many-sided and hectic. He had to get going the contacts between the German bishops and Rome. He had to represent the church in the negotiations with the occupying powers. He was active in the care for the prisoners, and in refugee questions. He had an enormous amount of charitable efforts. By the papal agency were run 950 trucks with food, clothes, and furniture. He had to master an extensive correspondence with many recommendation letters etc. etc.
The highlight of his Kronberg activity was his grand speech on the Catholic Day in Mainz 1948, which was coined by enlightened intelligence and high-minded devotion. It culminated in the much noticed statement: 'Germany - a mission country'. Many judged that statement as exaggerated. But from today's view his situation analysis proves more and more right.
In spring 1951 Muench was accredited as nuncio in Bonn. He moved to Bad Godesberg with his Kronberg staff. Father Zeiger, who had almost ruined his heart by all those efforts and by far too little sleep, left in May 1951 the service of the Vatican embassy. Nevertheless the superiors thought him capable of a new task. In March 1952 he took over the editorship of the outstanding magazine 'Stimmen der Zeit' in Munich. There were still left only nine months lifetime to him.
In the morning of December 24th, Christmas Eve 1952, one found him dead on the corridor before his room. On December 27th 1952 he was buried in Pullach near Munich at the order-own cemetery. Archbishop Wendel of Munich and Bishop Döpfner from Würzburg were present.
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