Meisner was the former archbishop of Cologne and before that was bishop in Berlin from 1980 to 1988.
In a surprise move he was appointed archbishop in Cologne in 1988, less than a year before the Wall came down.
During the life of the former German Democratic Republic the Catholic Church held an unusual position in Berlin as it was one of the very few organisations that straddled the Berlin Wall. The Berlin diocese included the territory of the Capital City of the GDR, its hinterland and West-Berlin. The bishop resided in Bebel Platz in the East, in the territory of the GDR.
Meisner most likely was one of the few diocesan cardinal bishops.
He was born in Breslau, now Wrocklaw in Poland, in 1933 and studied for the priesthood in Erfurt.
Meisner was not a charismatic figure and seldom seemed at home among his diocesan priests.
His move to Cologne was received with skepticism by the majority of Catholics in the archdiocese.
Joachim Meisner was considered a conservative bishop, who grew up under the tyranny of the Nazis and served many of his years as a bishop under the dictatorship of the SED government.