Cardinal Joachim Meisner, one of four 'dubia’ cardinals, dies at age 83

Cardinal Joachim Meisner Credit Raimond Spekking CC BY SA 40 CNA Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who died July 5, 2017 at the age of 83. | Raimond Spekking/CC BY-SA 4.0

Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop emeritus of Cologne, Germany and one of four cardinals who sent the "dubia" to Pope Francis last year, passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 83.

According to a press release from the Archdiocese of Cologne, the cardinal died July 5 while on vacation in Bad Füssing, Germany. Recently, the prelate had lived in Cologne.

Archbishop of Cologne from 1989-2014, he retired with the permission of Pope Francis in February 2014, at the age of 80, the same year his age made him ineligible to vote in a conclave.

Cardinal Meisner, alongside Cardinals Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Raymond Leo Burke, submitted five "dubia," or doubts, about the interpretation of Amoris laetitia to Pope Francis on Sept. 19, 2016.

The letter, made public in November, asked for clarification on Chapter 8 of the document, which touches on the reception of communion for divorced and remarried couples.

In May, the four – dubbed the "dubia cardinals" – sent a letter to the Pope requesting a private audience to discuss the content of the "dubia," since they have not yet received a response.

Cardinal Meisner, considered a leading conservative Catholic figure in Germany, stood in contrast to other German prelates who have propagated one of the more liberal interpretations of Chapter 8 of the post-synodal document.

Pope Francis sent a telegram to Cardinal Rainer Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne, July 5, expressing his sorrow at the death of Cardinal Meisner, as well as his closeness to Cardinal Woelki and the faithful of the archdiocese.

"With profound emotion I heard the news that suddenly and unexpectedly Cardinal Joachim Meisner has been called from this earth to the God of mercy," he said.

"With profound faith and sincere love for the Church, Cardinal Meisner dedicated himself to the announcement of the good news," it continued. "May Christ our Lord reward him for his faithful and courageous commitment on behalf of the people of the east and west, and make him a participant in the communion of saints in heaven."

The telegram concluded with the Pope's bestowal of the apostolic blessing on all those "who remember the deceased pastor with prayer and sacrifice."

Born in Breslau, Germany on December 25, 1933, Cardinal Meisner was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Erfurt-Meiningen in 1962. Later he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, receiving his doctorate in theology in 1969.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop to the Apostolic Administrator of Erfurt Meiningen in 1975, and elected a delegate to the fourth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in 1977, where he renewed a friendship with then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla.

Cardinal Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II one year later, and appointed Meisner Bishop of Berlin in 1980, elevating him to the position of cardinal in 1983.

In 1988 Cardinal Meisner was made Archbishop of Cologne, serving in this position until his retirement at age 80 on Feb. 28, 2014.

He participated in the 2005 and 2013 papal conclaves which elected Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. He had close relationships with both Pope St. John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger, now-Benedict XVI, whom he would visit at the Vatican.

The story was updated at 2:07 p.m. Rome time with the telegram of Pope Francis.

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