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Cardinal Kasper questions Synod conclusion on divorce and Communion October 24, 2005

Just hours after the Synod of Bishops released its final report, confirming that Catholics who are divorced and remarried should not receive Communion, Cardinal Walter Kasper said that the question should be reconsidered.

"I cannot imagine that the discussion is closed," said Cardinal Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. "It is a question that exists, and we have to reflect on it in order to be able to respond."

Speaking at a press conference in Rome, the German cardinal said that he has been discussing the question with other bishops for ten years, "and every bishop in every Western country recognizes that this is a grave problem."

The Synod's decision, Cardinal Kasper continued, "is not the final result." He observed that the Synod has presented its conclusions to the Pope, who will prepare an apostolic exhortation on the topic. The cardinal added that although the Synod had voted to affirm the current Church policy, calls for change had also been heard. (He did not allude to the fact that in the past, Pope Benedict has expressed his own clear opposition to a change.)

Similarly, the German cardinal said that the door is not closed to the possibility of ordaining married men, although the Synod also recommended strongly against that possibility. Although he said that he recognizes celibacy as "a gift for the Church," he suggested that "in certain cases" it might be better to "remain open to the hypothesis" that married men of proven virtue could be well equipped for the ministry.

Cardinal Kasper, who participated in the 3-week meeting of the Synod, has been outspoken in the past in his calls for a change in Church teachings regarding divorce and remarriage. In 1993, when he was Archbishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Cardinal Kasper approved a policy allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist. He was eventually called to revise that policy by the Vatican-- specifically, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.