This year's spring assembly of the German bishops' conference, scheduled in Mainz March 2-5, will be dominated by the election of a successor to the its current president, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising.

The cardinal, 66, is retiring from presidency and has said it is time for a younger generation to take the helm, reported the German Catholic news agency, KNA.

Cardinal Marx has won praise for being down to earth and diplomatic and, most of all, for having good connections to Pope Francis, all of which made him an effective representative of his fellow bishops, KNA reported.

The conference vice president, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabruck, 69, has already said he will not run for president. Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne also has ruled out running.

There is intense media interest in the meeting, not the least because of the other issues the bishops will address, including further efforts to tackle the sexual abuse scandal. Abuse victims are still waiting for the church to agree on compensation for their suffering. Sums of up to 400,000 euros (US$434,000) per victim have been discussed, a level that poorer dioceses may not be able to afford.

The spokesman on abuse issues for the German bishops' conference, Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann, said recently he was confident an agreement on compensation would soon be reached.

The abuse scandal and its aftermath were a major driving force behind the Synodal Path reform process, an attempt by bishops and laypeople to restore confidence in the church. The bishops' meeting in Mainz will take stock of the Jan. 30-Feb. 1 Synodal Assembly in Frankfurt, which launched the reform dialogue.

The meeting is also likely to analyze "Querida Amazonia," (Beloved Amazonia), Pope Francis' post- apostolic exhortation on the October Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.