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Cardinal Kasper reveals Pope Benedict wrote him last month about ‘crisis in the Church’

January 06, 2023

In a tribute to the late Pontiff, whom he has known since 1963, Cardinal Walter Kasper revealed that on December 10, “the Pope Emeritus wrote me a kind letter that reveals our common concern in the face of the crisis in the Church.” He added that “fidelity to the binding apostolic origin and attention to the new questions of the present” “emerged” in the letter.

In the tribute, published in the January 5 edition of the Vatican newspaper, Cardinal Kasper criticized the caricature of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as a Panzerkardinal and called him a “kind theological thinker” of “great spiritual depth and subtle mild humor.”

Cardinal Kasper also acknowledged his “public disputes” with Pope Benedict.

“However, if anyone deduces from this that there was estrangement or even enmity, he has understood little or nothing of theology. In fact, like any science, theology also thrives on dispute, and a thinker is honored by thinking,” he added. “Therefore, our relationship has always been characterized by mutual respect and above all by the common rootedness in the faith of the Church, as well as by the common responsibility for the unity of the Church and for the greater ecumenical unity of the Churches.”

Cardinal Kasper, now 89, was President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 2001 to 2010. He said that he and Pope Benedict approached problems “from different angles” in part because of their differences in theological formation.

“Joseph Ratzinger, as a theologian, was totally shaped by the spirit of the Fathers of the Church, especially that of the West, St. Augustine, and by the theology of the Franciscan theologian St. Bonaventure,” said Cardinal Kasper. “I came more from the study of modern problematics, and already very early in an essay, I had deepened [my understanding of] the thought of Thomas Aquinas” (“avevo approfondito il pensiero di Tommaso d’Aquino“).


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  • Posted by: Fr Eric Lepanto - Jan. 10, 2023 6:54 PM ET USA

    Does this mean that the formation that Cardinal Kasper experienced is contrary to the Apostolic Tradition and the Fathers of the Church?

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jan. 07, 2023 11:12 AM ET USA

    The divergence in philosophies of formation between his training and that of Pope Benedixt XVI is crucial to understanding the crisis in the Church since the 1950s. Cardinal Ratzinger was formed in the Apostolic Tradition, as handed on by the Church and elucidated by the Church fathers and doctors. Cardinal Kasper was formed along more existential lines that emerged from Vatican II as worthy of particular emphasis: thus its distinction as a "pastoral" council. Stability vs busyness and change.