Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussel (Malines-Bruxelles), was born on 4 June 1933 in Kanegem, diocese of Bruges, in Eastern Flanders.
After his secondary studies at the College of St. Joseph in Tielt, he earned a licentiate in theology at the Higher Institute of Philosophy of the Catholic University of Louvain in 1954, and in 1961, a doctorate at the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome. Meanwhile, on 17 August 1957, he was ordained a priest, and in 1959, he became spiritual director of the major seminary of Bruges. Ten years later he became professor of theology at the Flemish Catholic University of Louvain and on 4 November 1977 he was named Bishop of Antwerp by Paul VI. He was consecrated on 18 December 1977 and in the two years that he headed the diocese, he dedicated much of his time to the spiritual direction of the priests and to pastoral leadership, working assiduously toward increased collaboration between priests and laity.
In 1978 John Paul II designated him President Delegate, together with Cardinal Willebrands, of the Special Synod for The Netherlands. During the Synod of Bishops on the role of the Christian family in the Contemporary World (1980), in which he represented his bishops’ conference, he was elected by a wide majority as a member of the General Secretariat of the same Synod. Thereafter, he participated in numerous synods of bishops: VI Ordinary General Assembly on reconciliation and penance (1983); II Extraordinary General Assembly, 20 years after Vatican Council II, as relator (1985); VII Ordinary General Assembly on the laity (1987); VIII Ordinary General Assembly on the formation of priests (1990); I Special Assembly for Europe (1991); IX Ordinary General Assembly on consecrated life (1994); II Special Assembly for Europe (1999): X Ordinary General Assembly on the bishop (2001); XI Ordinary General Assembly on the eucharist (2005); and, XII Ordinary General Assembly on the Word of God (2008).
He participated in the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (October 2014) on The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization and in the XIV Ordinary General Assembly on The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World (October 2015).
On 19 December 1979, he was named Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel by John Paul II, succeeding Cardinal Suenens.
Cardinal Danneels served as the Military Ordinary for Belgium and President of the Belgian Bishops' Conference (1980 - 2009).
Archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussel (Malines-Bruxelles), 18 January 2010.
He participated in the conclave of April 2005, which elected Pope Benedict XVI and in the conclave of March 2013, which elected Pope Francis.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by St. John Paul II in the consistory of 2 February 1983, of the Title of St. Anastasia.