Benedict XVI has described Cardinal Joachim Meisner as a “passionate shepherd and pastor” in a message read out at the cardinal’s funeral.

The Pope Emeritus said he had spoken to Cardinal Meisner the previous day and at first “could not believe” he had died.

What struck him most in those last conversations, he said in the message, was the cardinal’s “natural cheerfulness” and “inner peace”.

Benedict XVI said it had been “hard for him to leave his office … at a time when the Church had a pressing need for shepherds who would oppose the dictatorship of the zeitgeist, fully resolved to act and think from a faith standpoint”.

He added: “I have been all the more impressed that in this last period of his life he learned to let go, and live increasingly from the conviction that the Lord does not leave his Church, even if at times the ship is almost filled to the point of shipwreck.”

Benedict XVI noted that two things in particular had made Cardinal Meisner “increasingly happy”. One was seeing the joy of young men experiencing forgiveness in Confession.

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