Friday, February 28, 2014

Cardinal Joachim Meisner has Resigned -- Germany Will Miss His Voice -- Who Will His Successor Be?

(Cologne) Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner. The 80 year old Silesian was born on 25 December  in 1933 in Breslau. He was as archbishop one  of the most influential figures of the Catholic Church in Germany for the past 45 years. Meisner was for a long while a bishop. First, as Auxiliary Bishop of Erfurt from 1980 to 1989. Bishop of the divided  Berlin, then at the request of Pope John Paul II, almost simultaneously with the collapse of the Communist dictatorship and the end of the GDR to the Archdiocese of Cologne. With Cologne, Meisner stood at the head of the largest and most influential diocese in German speaking countries. A bishop's seat, which was connected in the Holy Roman Empire with the electoral dignity. Cologne has been a Great archbishopric since the time of Charlemagne. The archbishops first elected the Holy Roman Emperor. Since the fall of the Old Kingdom of the bishop's throne is connected to the dignity of Cardinal, which is why they have chosen Popes ever since.

Meisner Could Never Form  German Church, But Constituted an Important Counterpoint

It would be an exaggeration if one were to say, Cardinal Meisner had left his stamp on the German Church. He succeeded only in part, to a lesser extent. He was part of the attempt of Pope John Paul II at the restoration of a Catholic Church, which showed signs of disintegration in the post-Conciliar period in the German language area. Cardinal Meisner was busy trying to fill holes and form a counterweight to the oppositional tendencies among the German bishops. That his weight was strong but not decisive, the elections showed the chairman of the German Bisschofskonferenz. An office which he never reached. A Meisner majoritywas never established  in the German Bishops' Conference. When choosing the Bishop of Mainz, Cardinal Karl Lehmann 1987, he would not have a say. Through the Wall, the East German Bishops were forced to organize themselves in the Berlin Conference of Bishops. In 2008, he had to accept Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, because he did not create a  strong minority.

Significant Elector for Pope Benedict XVI, Not for Francis

Nevertheless, Cardinal Meisner in recent decades under John Paul II and Benedict XVI. was a safe and reliable contact  in Rome. The choice of the German Pope, he had been jointly significant. Same does not apply to the election of Pope Saint Francis, which he showed clearly irritated immediately after the conclave.

Decline in Seas Becoming Stormy 

At the request of Benedict XVI. he remained significantly longer in office than is the case under Church law. He was the oldest active cardinal of the Catholic Church. By the end of 2008, he offered his resignation upon  reaching the age limit of 75 years for the first time. On Christmas Day 2013, he was 80 and was still a tower of strength. His departure takes place at a time where the the seas are truculent. Under Benedict XVI.   seemed to have been more calm  in the German Church. Cardinal Meisner was able to promote some of his auxiliary bishops to diocesan bishops. The resignation of Benedict and the election of Pope Francis showed that it had been a deceptive calm. Obviously progressive circles were resigned as a result of their marginalization. With the election of Argentine Pope they have scented morning air. Supposedly faithful bishops, even those that approached Meisner well-meaningly in office and dignity, even to the dignity of Cardinal, turn out to be disguised progressives. The German church shows a picture of disobedience and rebellion that is reminiscent of the time of the Second Vatican Council.

Stigma of the "Morning After" Pill Decision

Meisner himself took a controversial step, which overshadowed the end of his episcopate. A year ago, shortly before the resignation of Benedict XVI., he allowed hospitals in Catholic-run, at least one third of the entire Cologne hospital system, and Catholic doctors to dispense the morning-after pill. It was a unilateral decision that he secured its acceptance by the Bishops' Conference with a Machiavellian text. The morning after pill can also act as  an abortifacient. The opposite,  which Cardinal Meisner described, has not yet been confirmed by science.

Even in the Archdiocese of Cologne nothing desired by the Archbishop was put into effect. Under Pope Francis and in view of Meisner's age, some already ushered in the post-Meisner era. Meisner offered in many socio-political debates a safe reference point for Catholics and all people of good will. Meisner stood out from the other bishops also in that he knew how to speak in clear language. This was especially true after the untimely death of the Fulda Bishop Johannes Dyba.

Man of Clear Words Are Missing in Germany

Who will succeed him? Who will lead the most important German diocese, one of the largest dioceses in the world and, not least, one of the richest dioceses of the world church? A personal decision, which is of great importance for the German-speaking world, but also for the Universal Church. A decision that is entitled to Pope Francis.

It is hoped that Cardinal Meisner, as also the 80 year old Cardinal Walter Kasper, will prove to continue to raise his voice in the universal Church. One is related to the disposal of Cardinal Joachim Meisner fixed already: His voice is missing in Germany.

Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: La cigueña de la torre

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