The first official Katholikentag festival was organized by Adam Franz Lennig and held in Mainz from 3 October to 6 October 1848. The idea was a "general assembly of Catholic society in Germany" (Germ: Generalversammlung des katholischen Vereins Deutschlands), originally intended for delegates of the Catholic Church in Germany. The 87 delegates and roughly 100 visitors met with the aim of improving relations between the Catholic Church in Germany and the German government.
In the following decades the Katholikentag grew in popularity and in fame. It became an opportunity for Catholics to discuss and celebrate their faith. Since then, the position of the Catholic Church in Germany has solidified, becoming one of a set of state religions. Katholikentag, now run by the Central Committee for German Catholics, continues to be a cultural gathering for Germans of the Catholic faith.
Katholikentag is now a major national event in Germany, drawing attention from all corners of German society. Prominent German politicians and high-profile members of society attend the event. The motto of this festival was "Justice in God's Countenance" (Germ: Gerechtigkeit vor Gottes Angesicht).
Although major Church figures have become involved in the celebration, it has remained a function of the German Catholic laity, and is not an official ecumenical event, nor is it organized or mandated by the clergy.
Both Switzerland and Austria have been celebrating Katholikentag for over 100 years. In recent years the Austrian event has become an event for Central Europe, held in Austria but with visitors from seven other participating countries, namely Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The most recent Central European Katholikentag took place in 2004 and drew over 80,000 visitors, including Pope John Paul II. The theme of the event was "Christ - the Hope of Europe" (Germ: Christus - Hoffnung Europas).
Note: This article was translated from German Wikipedia Katholikentag on 26 June, 2006.