Leading German conservative archbishop steps down

AP News
Posted: Feb 28, 2014 8:23 AM

BERLIN (AP) — One of the most prominent conservatives in the German church is retiring as archbishop of Cologne — opening up a prestigious vacancy for Pope Francis to fill.

The Vatican said Friday that Francis had accepted the resignation of Cardinal Joachim Meisner for age reasons.

Meisner turned 80 on Christmas Day and has been Cologne archbishop for 25 years. Bishops hand in their resignation when they turn 75, their customary retirement age, but Pope Benedict XVI asked Meisner to stay on.

Meisner has been an outspoken and sometimes controversial conservative figure in liberally minded Germany. He opposed plans to build a large mosque in Cologne and once urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to apologize for criticizing the Vatican's handling of the case of a Holocaust-denying bishop.