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German Cardinal Joachim Meisner dies

German Cardinal Joachim Meisner celebrates a mass in

German Cardinal Joachim Meisner celebrates a mass in the Cologne Cathedral February 2008. Credit: AP / Roberto Pfeil

BERLIN — Joachim Meisner, the former archbishop of Cologne and a prominent conservative voice in the German church, died Wednesday, his archdiocese said. He was 83.

Meisner died while on vacation in Bad Fuessing, in Bavaria, the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Cologne said.

Born Christmas Day in 1933 in the eastern German city of Breslau, which is today the Polish city of Wroclaw, Meisner and his family fled westward ahead of the advancing Red Army at the end of World War II. He grew up in what became communist East Germany.

Meisner studied theology in the city of Erfurt, and was ordained in 1962. He was made archbishop of Berlin in 1980 and became a cardinal three years later.

After advancing up the Catholic hierarchy, Meisner became the Archbishop of Cologne in 1989 and served in that role until 2014, staying five years past the retirement age of 75 at the request of Pope Benedict XVI.

Meisner was an outspoken and sometimes controversial conservative figure in liberally minded Germany.

He opposed plans to build a large mosque in Cologne and once urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to apologize for criticizing the Vatican’s handling of the case of a Holocaust-denying bishop.

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