Deceased German cardinal “helped shape the life of the Church,” Francis says

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2018 / 05:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his long tenure as a bishop and theologian, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, who died March 11 in Mainz, Germany, was instrumental in shaping the life of the Church and society, Pope Francis said in a telegram Monday.

Expressing his condolences for the death of the prominent cardinal in a letter to Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz March 12, Francis said he learned of Cardinal Lehmann’s death “with pain,” and is praying for him “who the Lord has called to himself after a serious illness and suffering.”

Cardinal Lehmann, who served as the bishop of Mainz for nearly 33 years, died in his home on the morning of March 11 at the age of 81. He retired in 2016, and in September 2017 suffered a stroke which left his health in serious decline.

His funeral Mass will take place March 21 at the Mainz Cathedral.

Cardinal Lehmann is known for his ecumenical work, as well as the 20 years he served as president of the German bishops’ conference. Pope Francis said that in this long period of activity he “helped shape the life of the Church and of society.”

“He always had a heart open to the questions and challenges of the times, and to offering answers and orientations starting from the message of Christ, to accompany people along their path, seeking what unites…” he continued.

Francis also imparted his apostolic blessing upon the cardinal and all those who mourn his death and said he will remember them all in prayer that “Jesus, the Good Shepherd, gives to his faithful servant the fulfillment and fullness of life in his heavenly kingdom.”

Lehmann was born on May 16, 1936 and ordained a priest for the diocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany in 1963. He was appointed bishop of Mainz in 1983 and served until his retirement in 2016.

While bishop of Mainz, he became a member of the circle for dialogue between representatives of the German bishops’ conference and the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

From March 1986-1988 he also became a member, and later president, of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue between the World Lutheran Federation and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

From 1988-1998 he was a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and has received awards from universities and institutions all over the world. He is also the author of several publications.

He was made a cardinal by St. Pope John Paul II in 2001.

In 2005 he participated in the papal conclave that elected Benedict XVI, and in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.

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