Cardinal Kasper, 80, says Pope has put problems of southern hemisphere at the top of the agenda

Cardinal Walter Kasper, retired head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has said that Pope Francis is beginning a “new phase” of the Second Vatican Council.

The cardinal made the case in an article in Italian in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. According to an English translation by the commentator John Thavis, the cardinal referred to the Pope’s comments about a Church “for the poor”, adding: “Pope Francis, from the first day of his pontificate, has given what I would call his prophetic interpretation of the Council, and has inaugurated a new phase of its reception. He has changed the agenda: at the top are the problems of the Southern hemisphere.”

Cardinal Kasper praised Benedict XVI for promoting a balanced view of the Second Vatican Council. He said it was wrong to see the Council as a disaster and assume “everything that happened after the Council also happened because of the Council”.

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He said: “For most Catholics, the developments put in motion by the Council are part of the Church’s daily life. But what they are experiencing is not the great new beginning nor the springtime of the Church, which were expected at that time, but rather a Church that has a wintery look, and shows clear signs of crisis.”

He added that “the Church needs to take seriously the legitimate requests of the modern age. It needs to defend the faith against pluralism and postmodern relativism, as well as the fundamentalist tendencies that run from reason”.

The cardinal also said the global make-up of the Church had changed dramatically since the Council, with more than two-thirds of Catholics now living in the southern hemisphere.

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