The Vatican confirmed on Monday, June 8 that Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden-Meissen as Archbishop of Berlin. As Archbishop of Berlin, he will shepherd a population of 5.7 million, of whom 407,000 are Catholics. The Berlin archdiocese also has 421 priests and 668 religious. Bishop Koch was born in 1954 in Duesseldorf, and studied theology in Bonn. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Cologne on his 26th birthday, in 1980. Bishop Koch, who is 60, served as a parish priest and a youth chaplain, and was on the organizing committee for the 2005 World Youth Day, held in Cologne. In 1996, he was named a monsignor. In 2006 he was consecrated a bishop, and appointed auxiliary bishop of Cologne. In January 2013, he was made Bishop of Dresden-Meissen. In 2014, Bishop Koch was appointed by the German bishops conference as chairman of the Commission for Marriage and the Family. Bishop Koch is also involved in preparations for the Synod on the Family being held in Rome in October, and joins Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising and Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, of Osnabrueck as the bishops who will represent Germany at the synod. All three delegates are known to support the 'Kasper proposal', which would allow some divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics to receive Communion after a period of penance. According to a list of participants compiled by Edward Pentin and published by the National Catholic Register, Bishop Koch was present at the “Shadow Council” held May 25 at the Pontifical Gregorian University. That meeting aimed to promote “a pastoral opening on issues such as communion for the divorced and remarried, and the pastoral care of homosexuals,” according to one of its participants. And in a February interview with a German newspaper, Bishop Koch called for changes in the pastoral care of homosexuals, saying that to “portray homosexuality as a sin is hurtful,” adding that the Church “needs a different language when it comes to homosexuals … I know gay couples who value reliability and commitment and live these in an exemplary manner.”
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