Both ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ Catholics will be disappointed in Pope Francis’ programme of spiritual renewal, doctrinal continuity and emphasis on the poor, a top German cardinal said.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper, Il Foglio, Cardinal Walter Kasper, a theologian and retired president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said: “Many people are enthusiastic about (Pope Francis). He is a true pastor, he has great charm, a direct approach with people.”
But he added that “many will be disappointed in Francis”, claiming that the “conservative” branch of the Church already feels let down “because he doesn’t have the intellectual heft of Benedict and then because he abolished the pontifical court – something I am grateful for; it was an anachronistic extravagance.”
The cardinal predicted the “progressive” wing would not be happy either because even though the Pope has ushered in a change in style, “he will not change the content.”
“There is continuity in the doctrine between him and Benedict,” he said. Pope Francis “will not change anything with priestly celibacy, will not open ordinations to women” or promote other “progressive” issues that are not part of Church teaching.
Pope Francis “is not a conservative or a progressive. He wants a poor church and (a church) of the poor,” and he is keenly aware that a large part of the world lives in extreme poverty, the cardinal said.
Given the level of misery in the world, “I believe he will change the Church’s agenda” so that it “has to take seriously the problems” of the developing world, he added.
In the interview, Cardinal Kasper also said Pope Francis will face resistance within the curia, which, the cardinal believes, needs both organisational revamping and a change of mentality.
Attempts at reform will bring resistance and difficulties “just like with every big institution,” he said. “However, this Pope is very determined. He knows what he wants.”
The 80-year-old cardinal, who was eligible by just five days to be part of the conclave that elected the new Pope, was described by Pope Francis as a “superb theologian.” During his first public Angelus address, the Pope referred to one of the cardinal’s recently published works as a book that “has done me so much good.”