Renovabis was founded under the impact of the collapse of Communist systems and Soviet hegemony in Central and Eastern Europe. In 1989, the "Iron Curtain" fell. Free, pluralistic and open societies began to develop, in which, together with the restoration of the freedom of belief and conscience, also new possibilities opened up for the development of ecclesial and religious life. The possibility for self-organization of church and social groups and movements was given. However, the collapse of the planned economic systems also revealed the need for a fundamental economic transformation and a redesign of the social security systems, which, of course, brought about serious changes for countless people, and for many of them a deterioration of their material situation. The challenges associated with the new situation prompted the German Bishops in 1993, especially on the initiative of the Central Committee of German Catholics, to establish Renovabis as an "action of solidarity of German Catholics with the people of Central and Eastern Europe".
Renovabis wanted and wants to be the answer of the Catholic Church in reunified Germany to the great and unexpected reunification in Europe. Constitutive to the new action were and are above all three elements: the idea of solidarity that overcomes borders, the partnership approach and the reference to Europe. The principle of solidarity points to the anchoring of the mission of Renovabis in the Catholic Social Teaching. It stands for the commitment of the stronger for the weaker in the service of the common good in the larger horizon of a Europe that is growing together. Another central feature is the partnership approach of Renovabis: Renovabis sees itself as an action of solidarity with the people in the East, not just for them. Thus, from the outset, the claim was specified to work together with the partners in the eastern neighboring countries to build the civil society of tomorrow's Europe together.
In Germany, too, the action is oriented towards partnership in its efforts to initiate and accompany partner groups as a contribution to dialog, exchange and encounter between East and West. This mission remains even today, in the midst of a new, severe crisis of European integration and the threat to international law bases created since 1989 starting with the conflict in Ukraine, which is as up to date as it was at the time of the foundation of Renovabis.
Before the founding of Renovabis
Already during the "Cold War" period, the German Catholics supported the churches in Central and Eastern Europe - although such support was only possible in secret. In 1970, the European Aid Fund (EHF) was established in Vienna. By means of this Fund, the German and Austrian Bishops' Conferences helped the eastern neighboring countries. For this purpose, DM 40 million (about EUR 20.45 million) were available from German church tax funds.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989/'90
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification opened up new possibilities from one day to the next to help people in their transitional situation directly from Germany. The suggestion to establish Renovabis was given by the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK).
The action was to be "an answer of the German Catholics to the social and religious new beginning in the states of the former Eastern bloc after the collapse of the Communist systems". In the "Guiding ideas for an action of partnership of German Catholics for European solidarity of East and West “, which were written by the German Bishops´ Conference (DBK) in 1992, it says:
For the Catholic Christians in Germany, it means a new great task of European solidarity, which can only be fulfilled if it is actively supported by many women and men, families, groups, associations and communities and leads into a broad movement of solidarity. It is about generous, financial and material support, about personal cooperation and about exchange of experience and dialog in many forms and on many levels, tasks that require courage, perseverance, innovation and creativity...
Foundation of Renovabis
On 3 March 1993, Renovabis was founded by the German Bishops' Conference as an "action of solidarity of German Catholics with the people of Central and Eastern Europe"; on 1/2 May 1993, Renovabis introduced itself to the German public for the first time. Under the direction of Auxiliary Bishop Leo Schwarz, this first action was carried out and information materials were sent to parishes, dioceses, associations and the press.
Change of location of the main office from Trier to Freising
In May 1993, the main office of Renovabis started its work in the Abbey of St. Matthias in Trier. Then in September 1993, it moved to larger premises in Freising. To date, the main office of Renovabis is in the education center Kardinal-Döpfner-Haus of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.