German cardinal, archbishop; b. Münster in Westphalia, Jan. 6, 1813; d. Rome, Dec. 14, 1895. The Church-State conflict in Cologne (see cologne, mixed marriage dispute in) led him to abandon the legal profession and study for the priesthood. After ordination (1841), he became vicar-general of Münster (1852); bishop of Osnabrück (1857) as well as vicar apostolic for the northern missions, to which he devoted special pastoral care; and archbishop of cologne (1866). At vatican council i he was a leader in the minority group of bishops that considered a definition of papal primacy and infallibility inopportune, but he subscribed without hesitation to the conciliar decisions. His conscientious measures against the theology professors in his diocese who continued to oppose the definitions brought on him calumniations from the old catholics. During the early
years of the kulturkampf, which he had sought vainly to avert, he was the prudent leader of the Prussian hierarchy, along with his friend Bp. Wilhelm von Ketteler. After spending several months in prison (1874), Melchers was forced to leave Germany (1875) and to administer his see from nearby Maastricht in the Netherlands. To facilitate a settlement, he resigned his see at Pope Leo XIII's request (1885) and became a cardinal (1885) in the Roman Curia, where his influence was slight. In 1892 he joined the Jesuits.
Bibliography: f. p. e. cronenberg, Geschichte der Erzdiözese Köln (Cologne 1882) 850–889. j. b. kissling, Geschichte des Kulturkampfes im deutschen Reiche, 3 v. (Freiburg 1911–16). a. constabel, Die Vorgeschichte des Kulturkampfes (Berlin 1956). j. metzler, Die Apostolischen Vikariate des Nordens (Paderborn 1919) 192–196. e. c. butler, The Vatican Council, 1869–1870, 2 v. (New York 1930). r. lill, Die ersten deutschen Bischofskonferenzen (Freiburg 1964).
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