Cardinal Lehmann, who held the highest representative post of the Catholic Church in Germany for 21 years, has died. He has been described as a "bridge-builder" between the religions.
One of the leading figures in Germany's Catholic Church, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, died on Sunday in the western city of Mainz, his diocese said. He was 81 years old.
Lehmann led Germany's 23 million Catholics for 21 years as chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference from 1985 until 2008.
He was also the bishop of Mainz from 1983, only resigning the position on May 16, 2016, his 80th birthday. He was made a cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.
Lehmann was known for his relatively liberal views on abortion counseling and allowing divorced and remarried people to receive communion. These views sometimes made him a controversial figure among more conservative Catholics.
Lehmann had a stroke last September, which badly affected his health.
'A gifted mediator'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among those who expressed sadness at Lehmann's death, calling him one of "the best-known faces of the Catholic Church in Germany."
Merkel praised him as an "exceptionally gifted mediator" not only between German Catholics and Rome but also between the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations as well as believers of other religions.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called Lehmann a "man of clear words" and "one of the important bridge-builders between the denominations and religions."
The current chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, praised Lehmann as "a great theologian, bishop and friend to humankind."
The Central Council of Jews in Germany said Lehmann had always worked for good relations between Christians and Jews with great sensitivity and intelligence.
Lehmann's funeral mass is scheduled for March 21 in Mainz Cathedral.
tj/sms (AFP, AP, dpa)