2014-10-01 17:13:00

Cardinal Kasper: Church meets real life through the family

(Vatican Radio) The Synod of Bishops, which opens here in the Vatican on Sunday, is attracting intense debate because the family is the point where the Church’s message confronts the reality of ordinary peoples’ lives. That’s the view of Cardinal Walter Kasper, who was asked by Pope Francis to open the debate through a speech to the world’s cardinals at a consistory last February. Entitled ‘the Gospel of Life,’ that speech caused controversy by raising the issue of changing pastoral practise to allow some people in second marriages to be able to receive Holy Communion.

Cardinal Kasper, who formerly headed the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, believes this first Synod of the new pontificate, will also showcase a more vibrant and open discussion among Church leaders that Pope Francis is pioneering. Just as there were heated and sharply conflicting views ahead of the Second Vatican Council, the cardinal says he believes the two year Synod process will result in “a very large consensus” over changes in pastoral practise to support people facing difficulties in their family life.

Philippa Hitchen sat down with Cardinal Kasper to talk to him about the Church's teaching on the family and about the opposition of some Church leaders to his proposals….

Listen to the second part of our interview with Cardinal Walter Kasper:

There’s a real problem and I think bishops should be honest to discuss this gulf between the doctrine of the Church and the practise of many practising Catholics – the Church will not and cannot change the teachings, the doctrine, but it’s a question of the adaption of the doctrine, which all want to remain in the truth, to complex human situations.....

Q:Pope Francis presided at a marriage ceremony in St Peters recently for couples including some who already had children and had been living together...how important is this message ahead of the Synod?

A: I think it’s very important, it’s a real sign because family life is today lived in a very different way, it’s not just the ideal we have, but we have to take people as they are and listen to them...

Q: Yet many of your brother bishops seem to fearful or concerned about the impact of any change?

A: I think fear is always a bad councillor, and we should not have fear, but hope and courage of the Spirit and this is what the Pope is doing ….they fear a domino effect, all collapses, but we have to be realistic, we have to stick to the Gospel, to the doctrine, … but then apply it to the concrete situation of people who are on the way, as we clerics are on the way. The Church is a Church in a renewal process and I think this image of being on the way is very important for Pope Francis…

Q: Since your speech to the consistory, you’ve been seen as a key figure in this Synod – do you see yourself in that role?

A: No, I made this conference by invitation of Pope Francis , he encouraged me also to have questions….I said from the very beginning, it’s the Synod which will decide, not myself, and so it was what a cardinal has to do, to stay on the side of the pope, so I’m very serene!

Q: And the Pope?

A: When I spoke the last time (to him) he was very serene and there are also many bishops who will support him, so there’s no reason to become nervous about it …we have a similar situation we had at the beginning of the (Second Vatican) Council, also there were different positions, but then with a prudent moderation of Pope Paul VI we reached a text and documents with a very large consensus, and I have the hope we will reach this large consensus also this time…

Q: So you’re not worried about the books by some of your fellow cardinals opposing what you’ve said?

A: Everyone has the right to express his own opinion, that’s an open debate and I’m used to having such kind of debates from my academic life time…sometimes I’m a little bit astonished about a certain aggressive style…but I can live with it!

Q: Media interest in this Synod is much greater than in the past – is that a good or bad thing?

A: It’s a good thing because it shows that people who are not directly engaged with the Church are interested to listen what the Church is doing – because it’s the first Synod of Pope Francis, with a different style, and secondly because marriage and family is the point where the message of the Church and human life meet together……

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