By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tThis year marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In Catholic terms, this anniversary is also, in its own way, a moment of regime change.
One by one, the bishops who led the churches of the former Soviet sphere out of the catacombs, and into the “shock therapy” of absorbing several decades of post-Vatican II development in the West all at once, are beginning to fade from the scene. For example, Pope Benedict’s trip to the Czech Republic last weekend was also a swan song for Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Prague, who’s announced that he expects to be replaced by year’s end.
tAnother legend of the post-Soviet period is Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Germany, now almost 76 and thus beyond the normal retirement age. While there’s no indication yet of when the pope might accept his resignation, Meisner nonetheless realizes that he's nearer the end than the beginning, and finds himself in an introspective mood.