Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, was born on December 25, 1933 in Breslau, Silesia, Germany (present-day Wroclaw, Poland).
Having entered the seminary of Erfurt, he received a doctorate in theology. He was ordained a priest on December 22, 1962 and was made co-pastor of St. Giles Parish, Heiligenstadt and of Holy Cross, Erfurt. He was also the diocesan director of Caritas.
On March 17, 1975 he was elected titular Bishop of Vina and Auxiliary to Mons. Hugo Aufderbeck, Apostolic Administrator of Erfurt, East Germany. He was consecrated on May 17, 1975.
As Auxiliary Bishop of Erfurt, he signed the first agreement between Church and State based on the Democratic German Republic’s Constitution of 1963.
In December 1976, the members of the Bishops’ Conference of Berlin elected him as their representative to the Fourth Synod of Bishops, held at the Vatican in 1977.
In Rome, he once again met Cardinal Wojtyla, whom he had come to know two years previously. In 1975 the Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Wojtyla, had taken part in a pilgrimage of Catholics from Thuringia and Eichsfeld to Erfurt. On this occasion he heard the homily of the Auxiliary Bishop of Erfurt, which expressed the theme of the pilgrimage: Spiritual renewal to change the world.
Intense and fruitful in his work within the territory of the apostolic administration permanenter constituta of Erfurt-Meiningen, on April 22, 1980 John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Berlin. A particular diocese, which consisted of the eastern and western parts of the city, including the surrounding countryside scattered with small parishes and communities.
He was also President of the Bishops’ Conference of Berlin, 1982-1989.
On December 20, 1988 he was promoted to Archbishop of Cologne.
President Delegate of the Second Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops (October 1-23, 1999).
Created an proclaimed Cardinal by John Paul II in the consistory of February 2, 1983, of the Title of S. Pudenziana (St. Pudenziana).
- Congregations: for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; for Bishops; for the Clergy;
- Pontifical Council for Legislative texts;
- Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See;
- Council of Cardinals for Study of Organizational and Economic Affairs of the Holy See.