Benedict XVI as seen by Cardinal Kasper

Source: FSSPX News

One must get past the prejudices about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in order to grasp the work of the new pope, according to Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. Interviewed by the Italian weekly Famiglia cristiana on the pope’s efforts in favor of the unity of the various Christian churches, which he expressed beginning with his first homily during the closing Mass of the conclave on April 20, the cardinal affirmed that “the ministry of Peter is the ministry of unity and reconciliation”.

“I think in this regard as well the pope will present a new image. He has already begun his reign with an open style of communication. We must get passed the prejudices linked to his former office. He’s a conservative, but he is not closed and stubborn”, declared the German compatriot of Benedict XVI. “We must wait and not rush to label him right or left”.

Concerning an eventual encounter between Benedict XVI and Patriarch Alexei II, the curial cardinal in charge of ecumenical questions underscored that it was too early to say and “for the time being it has not been discussed”. This encounter and an eventual papal trip to Russian Orthodox lands is a challenge inherited from the pontificate of John-Paul II. “I hope it will be possible, because that would be a great step forward in the improvement of our relations”.

Regarding dialog with the Protestants, the cardinal explained that the reactions of the Protestant world to the election of Benedict XVI had been “more or less positive”. There is a great sense of anticipation as to how the new pope, who is now primarily known as a great theologian, will act”.

Finally, the cardinal observed that “the new ecumenical challenge” is in regard to Christian sects and movements such as the Neo-Pentecostalists, the Neo-Charismatics: “They are making great strides, especially in the Americas and in Africa”.

Benedict XVI and Cardinal Kasper have been associates for 40 years. In 2001, the two German theologians engaged in an animated discussion by means of articles and public conferences on the role of the local churches and the Universal Church. Cardinal Kasper expressed his opposition to what he called “a rigid emphasis” on the Universal Church and to a decline in the authority of the world’s bishops. Cardinal Ratzinger responded that one could not deny the primacy of the Universal Church over the local churches, because the Church is a reality which goes beyond geographical borders.

Moreover, in 1993, Cardinal Kasper, at the time Archbishop of Rotenburg-Stuttgart, was one of the three German bishops who permitted divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments, being of the opinion that their first marriage was null. Cardinal Ratzinger forbade this practice in 1994.

In 1999, Cardinal Kasper criticized the tone and content of a document signed by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In a series of public statements in Germany, he indicated that Dominus Iesus, which did not allow Protestant communities to be called “churches” as such, was “too abrupt” and that it called into question the cause of ecumenical dialog.