Germany′s Contribution to the Conclave | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 18.04.2005
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Germany's Contribution to the Conclave

Aside from the heavily influential Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Germany has five other cardinals taking part in the 115-member conclave. Their views range from progressive to the heavily conservative Vatican line.


One of the 115 closes the Sistine Chapel doors as the conclave begins

The progressive leader

Eröffnungsgottesdienst Deutsche Bischofskonferenz Karl Kardinal Lehmann

Cardinal Karl Lehmann

Cardinal Karl Lehmann, 71, actually began his theological career as a professor at the University of Mainz. After serving as advisor to Germany's bishop's conference, he was appointed Bishop of Mainz in 1983. His election four years later to head of the bishop's conference surprised many as did his progressive views on the expanded role of women in the Catholic Church. In 1998, he went against the Vatican's thinking and advocated for the continuation of church-funded pregnancy counseling centers. Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in February 2001.

The outspoken critic

Kardinal Meisner segnet die Hostien

Cardinal Joachim Meisner

Cardinal Joachim Meisner, 71, grew up and began his theological career in the former East Germany as the bishop of Erfurt and leader of the Berlin bishop's conference, and became one of Communism's sharpest critics. He refused to meet with East German leader Erich Honecker after he was appointed bishop. Following reunification, Meisner became a harsh critic of those in favor of abortion, and church-sponsored pregnancy counseling centers. Conservative like Pope John Paul II, Meisner, whose mother fled from the Polish region of Silesia following the war, also shared a similar background with the pope. He was made a cardinal at the surprisingly young age of 49 on Feb. 2, 1983. "That went fast," Meisner reportedly said himself. He is currently the archbishop of Cologne, a post from which he has criticized the German government's family politics as well the opposition Christian Democratic Union.

The asylum-seeker's friend

Kardinal Georg Sterzinsky

Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky

Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky, 69, like Meisner, began his career in the former East Germany. In 1989, the year the wall fell, he became bishop of Berlin. In the 1990s, he fought for the rights of immigrants and asylum-seekers, becoming the first German bishop to name a representative for immigrants. His toes the Vatican line on all important questions. He was named cardinal by John Paul II in June 1991.

The anti-abortion activist

Kardinal Friedrich Wetter

Cardinal Friedrich Wetter

Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, 78, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, is one of Germany's most vocal and influential clergymen. He is an especially sharp critic of abortion, and has compared the practice in Germany to the atomic bomb and Hiroshima and the killings along the former East-West German border. Nevertheless, Wetter sees himself as a bridge-builder. His views on women in the church are decidedly more moderate and he appointed an environmental representative into the bishop's office. He is considered an affable, but nevertheless fierce defender of the Vatican line. He was elevated to cardinal in 1985.

The bridge-builder

Kardinal Walter Kasper

Cardinal Walter Kasper

Cardinal Walter Kasper, 72, told his mother when he was 5 that he wanted to become a priest. But he actually spent half of his theological career, until 1989 when he was appointed bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, in academia. Kasper considers himself willing to compromise and has worked to build relationships with his Russian Orthodox, Jewish and Lutheran colleagues -- a task he has held officially in the Vatican. He was named cardinal in February 2001.

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