The Vatican has appointed the archbishop of Berlin, seen by German media as part of a “new generation” of less dogmatic clergy, to take over the Cologne archdiocese, the largest and richest in Germany, it said on Friday.
The move makes Rainer Maria Woelki, who turns 58 next month, one of the most influential Roman Catholic cardinals and is an indication of the type of person Pope Francis wants to see in prominent Church roles.
Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper called him “the prototype of a new generation of bishops … not grumpy and dogmatic … these men speak of mercy and mean it. They’re open to people, even their critics, to a point and have a heart for the disadvantaged. Still, they’re theologically conservative.”
Woelki is a Cologne native and served there for years under his retired predecessor, the staunchly conservative Cardinal Joachim Meisner, before becoming bishop of Berlin in 2011.