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Young German cardinal named to head historic Cologne archdiocese

July 11, 2014

In an unusual transfer of a ranking prelate from one major metropolitan archdiocese to another, Pope Francis has named the current Archbishop of Berlin to become Archbishop of Cologne, Germany.

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who has led the Berlin archdiocese since 2011, will succeed Cardinal Joachim Meisner as Archbishop of Cologne. Cardinal Meisner retired in February at the age of 80.

Cologne is the most populous German archdiocese, and one of the largest in Europe. The appointment of Cardinal Woelki could be interpreted as a sign of the Pope’s approval, and an indication that the German prelate will—like Cardinal Meisner, whom he describes as his mentor—become a major influence in the Church in Europe.

Cardinal Woelki, a native of Cologne who was ordained for the priesthood there in 1985, received his red hat from Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. At the time, at the age of 55, he was the youngest member of the College of Cardinals.


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