In 1988, Berlin lost its bishop – Joachim Meisner, now a cardinal – to Cologne. Now, it seems, the gesture is returned. Only four days after the death of the previous metropolitan of the German capital, Bishop Rainer Maria Woelki crosses the country from Cologne. And so none of the German dioceses remain vacant any longer.

Archbishop elect Woelki was born in Cologne in 1956 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1985. In 2003 he was ordained to be one of the auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Cologne (he leaves three of them with Cardinal Meisner). In his time in Cologne he served as private secretary to the cardinal, and director of the Collegium Albertinum for seminarians studying in Bonn, among other duties. As auxiliary bishop he held the titular see of Scampa in modern Albania, and within the German bishops’ conference his responsibilities were in the fields of vocations, Church ministries and science & culture. At 54, he is among the youngest German bishops, and certainly the youngest archbishop.

As mentioned before, this appointment fills all German sees, but in the near future we may expect three new vacancies, one of which is Woelki’s native Cologne. Cardinal Meisner is 77 and thus overdue for retirement, and the same goes for Bishop Wilhelm Schraml of Passau (76) and Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz (75).

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