By Stefan J. Bos
He was one of the most prominent faces of the Catholic Church and German television opened with the news that Cardinal Karl Lehmann had passed away.
Germany's Catholic Bishops Conference said in a statement that its former head, Cardinal Karl Lehmann died Sunday at his home in Mainz.
Cardinal Lehman had a stroke last September and in recent days, as his death seemed imminent, Catholics across the country had prayed for him.
In published remarks, the current head of the Bishops Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, said the "church of Germany is bowing humbly in front of a personality" who he added "influenced the Catholic church worldwide."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel agrees.
She said she is very sad about Lehmann's death and called him one of the most prominent faces of the Catholic Church in Germany.
Merkel explained in a statement that she is "deeply grateful" for what she said were her good conversations and meetings with him over the years.
The chancellor called him "an exceptionally gifted mediator" not only in talks between German Catholics and Rome but "also in the spirit of the economic movement between the Christian churches and between Christians and believers of other religions."
Cardinal Lehmann – who was made a cardinal by John Paul II in 2001, made clear he wanted to serve people.
He said: "The position of bishop has not be given to be honored by people. But it is a mission. The bishop is not here to rule, but to serve."
Lehmann was born on May 16, 1936, in the southwestern German town of Sigmaringen.
Before he became cardinal, he was a professor of theology and appointed as Bishop of Mainz in 1983.
As president of the German Bishop's Conference, he led the country's more than 23 million Catholics for 20 years.
His funeral Mass was set for March 21 at the Mainz Cathedral.