VATICAN CITY, JULY 25, 2002 (Zenit.org).- German Cardinal Johannes Joachim Degenhardt died suddenly of heart failure today, the Archdiocese’s Information Office disclosed. He was 76.
The archbishop of Paderborn was known for his fidelity to the magisterium. John Paul II, who visited his diocese in 1996, made him a cardinal last year.
The cardinal died in his residence in Paderborn. According to archdiocesan spokesman Thomas Schaefers, the cardinal’s death was “sudden and unexpected.”
Born in 1926 in Schweim, he was detained for a few weeks by the Gestapo at the end of 1941, when he was 15, for participating in the Catholic Youth Association.
After completing his studies in philosophy and theology in Paderborn and Munich, he was ordained a priest on Aug. 6, 1952.
Pope Paul VI appointed him auxiliary bishop of Paderborn in 1968. He was promoted by this same Pope to the metropolitan see in 1974.
Johannes Degenhardt became famous in Germany for his vigorous defense of human life, both in its initial phases — in the face of abortion — as well as in its central role within the modern economy.
In 1992 he made headlines when he removed the right to celebrate Mass from Eugen Drewermann, who challenged the Virgin Birth and other Church tenets.
Upon receiving the news of his death, John Paul II immediately sent a telegram of sympathy in German, in which he recalled the cardinal’s testimony as pastor for his diocese and the world.