Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky, who stepped down as the Berlin's archbishop earlier this year, has died. He was 75.
The Berlin archdiocese said Sterzinsky died early Thursday. It did not give details, but the cardinal had long been ill; in February, Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation.
Sterzinsky was born in 1936 in what is now Poland and studied in communist East Germany. He became bishop of Berlin _ then a divided city _ in 1989 and was later promoted to archbishop and cardinal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Sterzinsky's death a big loss for the Catholic church.
"Cardinal Sterzinsky stimulated and enriched the debates in society and church with his sophisticated contributions," the chancellor wrote in a statement.
Auxiliary bishop Matthias Heinrich has been in charge of the archdiocese since Sterzinsky's resignation. The Vatican hasn't yet named a permanent successor.
Benedict is due to visit Berlin in September.