Joachim Meisner

Joachim Cardinal Meisner Portrait by Gerd Mosbach Oil on canvas, 2010
His Eminence
Joachim Meisner
Cardinal, Archbishop Emeritus of Cologne
Church Cologne Cathedral
Archdiocese Cologne
Province Cologne
Metropolis Cologne
See Cologne
Appointed 20 December 1988
Installed 12 February 1989
Term ended 28 February 2014
Predecessor Joseph Höffner
Successor Rainer Maria Woelki
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of Santa Pudenziana
Ordination 22 December 1962
by Josef Freusberg
Consecration 17 May 1975
by Hugo Aufderbeck
Created Cardinal 2 February 1983
by Pope John Paul II
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Birth name Joachim Meisner
Born (1933-12-25) 25 December 1933
Breslau, Prussia, German Reich
Nationality German
Denomination Roman Catholic
Previous post
  • Spes Nostra Firma Est Pro Vobis
  • (That our hope for you may be steadfast)
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Styles of
Joachim Meisner
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Cologne

Joachim Meisner (born 25 December 1933) is a German cardinal of the Catholic Church. He is the immediate past Archbishop of Cologne, serving from 1989 until his resignation was accepted by Pope Francis in 2014.[1][2][3] He previously served as Bishop of Berlin from 1980 to 1989, and was created a cardinal in 1983.[4] He is widely considered to be Germany's leading conservative Catholic figure.[5][6][7]

Early life and ordination

Meisner was born in Breslau, which was then part of Germany, but is now known as Wrocław in southwestern Poland.[8] He studied at the seminary of Erfurt from 1959 to 1962,[8] and was ordained a deacon on 8 April 1962.[9] On 22 December 1962, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Josef Freusberg, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Fulda.[4]

Between 1963 and 1975, Meisner served as chaplain at St. Giles Parish in Heiligenstadt and Holy Cross Parish in Erfurt.[8] He also served as diocesan director of Caritas.[9] During his pastoral ministry, he furthered his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he received his doctorate of theology in 1969.[3]


In 1975, he was elected titular Bishop of Vina and auxiliary bishop to the Apostolic Administrator Erfurt-Meiningen. He was elected as a delegate to the Fourth Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in 1977, where he renewed a friendship with Karol Wojtyła. After Cardinal Wojtyła was elected Pope John Paul II, he appointed Meisner Bishop of Berlin in 1980, and proclaimed him Cardinal-Priest of Santa Pudenziana in the consistory of 2 February 1983.

In 1988 after the death of Joseph Höffner, Meisner was promoted to the position of Archbishop of Cologne, a post he continued to hold through 2014. He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Meisner was the bishop in charge for the XX. World Youth Day in August 2005 in the archdiocese in Cologne that attracted more than one million people. As the leader of Germany's biggest and wealthiest archdiocese, the Cardinal holds a very significant moral and social position, too.

Meisner regularly travels to the Vatican to meet Pope Benedict in private. On 21 October 2013, he met Pope Francis .

On Tuesday, 18 September 2012, Cardinal Meisner was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as a Synod Father for the upcoming October 2012 Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.[10]

In February 2013 Cardinal Meisner has approved the use of some morning-after pills for rape victims after he announced they did not induce abortions and could be used in Catholic hospitals. He altered his policy after two Catholic hospitals refused to treat a rape victim because they could not prescribe the pill. The Catholic Church firmly opposes abortion and artificial birth control. Many Catholics see all emergency contraceptives as abortion-inducing drugs banned by this policy, but Meisner said some prevent fertilization and could be used in rape cases. "The German Bishops' Conference is holding a regular meeting in two weeks and the issue will certainly be on the agenda," Cologne archdiocese spokeswoman Nele Harbeke said.[11][12]

Cardinal Meisner participated in the 2013 papal conclave that elected Pope Francis.[13][14][15] At Pope Francis' inauguration, Cardinal Meisner was one of the six cardinals who made the public act of obedience on behalf of the College of Cardinals.[lower-alpha 1][16][17]

On 25 December 2013, Cardinal Meisner turned 80 and lost the right to participate in future conclaves; on the same day, he tended his resignation papers to the Pope, which were accepted.[18]

On 28 February 2014, his resignation as Archbishop took effect; diocesan administrator Stefan Heße will govern the archdiocese until a successor is appointed by the Pope.


Papacy and Magisterium

Meisner is known for his support of the Pope and of the teachings of the Church. Pope John Paul asked for Cardinal Meisner to see him when he was in the Gemelli Hospital in Rome. Meisner had a very close relationship to Pope John Paul II and is a long time friend of Joseph Ratzinger, the later Pope Benedict XVI.

He said of Pope Benedict "He [Pope Benedict] has the intelligence of 12 professors and is as pious as a child on the day of his first communion."[19]

In 2009, Meisner "approached [Pope] Benedict on behalf of a number of cardinals to ask him to dump his Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone."[20][21] "According to the interview in the Frankfurter Rundschau, Meisner told Benedict: 'Your Holiness, you have to make Cardinal Bertone resign! He has the responsibility, like in a secular government.'[21][lower-alpha 2] According to Meisner, Benedict's response was: 'Listen to me carefully. Bertone will remain! Enough, enough, enough.'" [21][lower-alpha 3]

Culture and liturgy

"Wherever culture is separated from the worship of God, cult atrophies in ritualism and culture becomes degenerate", said Meisner at the blessing of his own archdiocese's new art museum, the Kolumba, on 14 September 2007. His choice of words recalled the phrase "entartete Kunst" ("degenerate art") used as the title of the exhibition opened by Adolf Hitler in Munich on 19 July 1937 and provoked strong negative reaction.[lower-alpha 4]

It was widely recognized that Meisner was criticizing the stained-glass window in Cologne Cathedral by Gerhard Richter, which was unveiled just weeks before and of which he disapproved.[23][24][25]

Amoris laetitia

In November 2016, Meisner, along with three other cardinals, in a public letter entitled "Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in Amoris Laetitia", asked Pope Francis to clarify various points of doctrine in the Pope's apostolic exhortation, Amoris laetitia. The cardinals had previously submitted dubia in private, but since he had not responded to these, the cardinals followed instructions in the Gospel of Matthew[26] and issued their public letter. The first dubia asked about the reception of the sacraments by the divorced and remarried. The public letter asked about fundamental issues of the Christian life and referenced Pope John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis splendor.[27][28]

Notable published works


  1. The other five cardinals were Giovanni Battista Re, Tarcisio Bertone, Jozef Tomko, Renato Raffaele Martino and Francesco Marchisano. Cardinals Re and Bertone represented the cardinal-bishops; Cardinals Martino and Marchisano represented the cardinal-deacons; and Cardinal Meisner himself along with Cardinal Tomko represented the cardinal priests.
  2. Heiliger Vater, Sie müssen Kardinal Bertone entlassen! Er ist der Verantwortliche – ähnlich wie der zuständige Minister in einer weltlichen Regierung.[20]
  3. Hör mir gut zu! Bertone bleibt! Basta! Basta! Basta![20]
  4. Although the Cardinal said his meaning was "that when art and religion are separated, both are damaged", and a spokesman for him said he had not intended to pay tribute to "old ideologies", a writer for an Internet site that describes itself as "the Internet platform against extremism of the right" accused him of using Goebbels-like incendiary language against artists, in a cowardly attack by one who "has control over a huge and wealthy empire that includes property, church media and the allegiance of millions of believers" against those who "are vulnerable within society: generally isolated, badly paid and rarely organized into trade unions or powerful professional bodies".[22]


  3. 1 2 "Archbishop Joachim Meisner". Cologne Cathedral.
  4. 1 2 "Joachim Cardinal Meisner". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  5. Palmo, Rocco (16 September 2007). "Cardinal Says "Degenerate"; Fracas Ensues". Whispers in the Loggia.
  6. "The isolated Cologne archbishop, Cardinal Joachim Meisner". Catholic New Times. 11 September 2005.
  7. "Daniel-in-lion's-den moment for new Catholic archbishop of free-wheeling Berlin". Reuters. 5 July 2011.
  8. 1 2 3 "MEISNER Card. Joachim". Holy See.
  9. 1 2 "MEISNER, Joachim (1933– )". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church.
  11. Heneghan, Tom (4 February 2013). "German Catholic Church may back some "morning-after pills"". Reuters. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  13. "Cardinal electors – Conclave of March 2013 – Arranged in alphabetical order". Salvador Miranda. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  14. "Cardinal electors arranged by orders and precedence". Salvador Miranda. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  15. "Cardinal electors arranged by age". Salvador Miranda. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  16. Rolandi, Luca (19 March 2013). "Il giorno di Papa Francesco: La messa di inizio pontificato in Piazza San Pietro" (in Italian). Retrieved 15 October 2013.
  17. Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate (Vatican video of Pope Francis' papal inauguration on YouTube
  18. "MEISNER, Joachim". Salvador Miranda. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  19. Tara Holmes: Benedict XVI, BBC, 6 August 2009
  20. 1 2 3 Frank, Joachim (11 February 2013). "Kardinal Joachim Meisner: Wie soll das gehen? Ein Papst im Ruhestand!" (in German). Frankfurter Rundschau. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  21. 1 2 3 Allen, John L. Jr. (15 February 2013). "A critical tone among cardinals begins to emerge". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  22. Margolis, Karen Margolis. "Watch their words. Meisner & Herman, the German backwards crusaders".
  23. Fortini, Amanda (9 December 2007). "Pixelated Stained Glass". New York Times. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  24. "Gerhard Richter weist Meisners Kritik zurück". Die Welt (in German). 31 August 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  25. "Window by Artist Gerhard Richter Unveiled at Cologne Cathedral". Deutsche Welle. 27 August 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  27. Pentin, Edward (14 November 2016). "Four Cardinals Formally Ask Pope for Clarity on 'Amoris Laetitia'". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  28. McElwee, Joshua J. (14 November 2016). "Four cardinals openly challenge Francis over 'Amoris Laetitia'". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  29. "Gloria von Thurn und Taxis spricht mit Kardinal Joachim Meisner : Die Prinzessin und der Kardinal" (in German). 10 September 2008.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Joachim Meisner.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Joseph Höffner

Archbishop of Cologne

Succeeded by
Rainer Woelki
Preceded by
Gerhard Schaffran
Chairman of the Berlin Conference of Catholic Bishops
Succeeded by
Joachim Wanke
Preceded by
Alfred Bengsch

Bishop of Berlin

Succeeded by
Georg Sterzinsky
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