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Pope and Pope Emeritus pay tributes to Meisner

18 July 2017 | by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

rancis praised Meisner’s 'undaunted commitment' to his faith and to the Church in eastern and western Europe

After lying in repose for a week at St Gereon’s church in Cologne, the former Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, 83, was buried in Cologne Cathedral on 15 July. He had died unexpectedly in his sleep in the early hours of 5 July while on holiday.

The Archbishop of Cologne and Meisner’s successor, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, led the procession which accompanied Meisner’s coffin from St Gereon’s to the Cathedral.

More than 20 archbishops and bishops but also senior churchmen from the Orthodox and Old Oriental Churches in eastern Europe, attended the Requiem Mass which was concelebrated by Cardinal Woelki, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the German bishops’ conference, and the nuncio to Germany, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic.

Pope Francis’ words of greeting were read out by Archbishop Eterovic at the beginning of the Mass. Francis praised Meisner’s “undaunted commitment” to his faith and to the Church and recalled that he had been equally dedicated to the Church in both eastern and western Europe.

The sermon was delivered by the Hungarian Primate, Cardinal Peter Erdö of Esztergom-Budapest, one of Meisner’s closest friends.

After the Eucharist, the Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, read out a long message from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

“At this hour, when the Church of Cologne and believers from far beyond, are taking leave of Cardinal Joachim Meisner, I, too, am with them in my heart and thoughts and therefore gladly fulfil Cardinal Woelki’s request to address a few words of commemoration to them”, Benedict wrote. He had found the news that Meisner had died difficult to believe at first as he had spoken to him on the telephone only one day before. Meisner had told him that he had attended the beatification of Bishop Teofilius Matulionis of Vilnius the previous Sunday (25 June) and was now relieved to be on holiday. Benedict recalled how greatly Meisner had loved the Church in Eastern Europe which had suffered so much under Communist persecution.

He had found “relaxed cheerfulness,” an “ inner joy” and a “confidence” at the end of his life, Benedict said. “He learned to let go and lived increasingly from the conviction that the Lord does not leave his Church, even if at times the ship is almost filled to capsizing”.

Meisner was buried in the cathedral vaults opposite Cardinal Josef Frings who was Archbishop of Cologne during the Second Vatican Council (1962-5). Frings was a Council Father and took Joseph Ratzinger with him to the Council as his 'peritus'.

PICTURE: A mourner holds a portrait of Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Germany, prior to his funeral on 15 July 



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