Cardinal Walter Kasper will give the opening address at a two-day meeting of the College of Cardinals later this week.
Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said Cardinal Kasper’s speech would deal with Church teaching on the family, according to Catholic News Service.
The cardinals’ consistory will take place from February 20 to 21 and Pope Francis will be in attendance. The meeting is a preparatory one ahead of October’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation”.
Fr Lombardi said that the cardinals’ meeting would not preempt the synod in any way. A consistory, he said, is a meeting “where every cardinal can freely express his thoughts,” but it is not a decision-making body and will not feature a vote on propositions.
The cardinals’ conversation “does not bind the synod in any way,” he said, although synod members will be informed about what the cardinals said.
Pope Francis has said the synod will explore the the question of giving Communion to the divorced and remarried Catholics.
Sales of Cardinal Kasper’s most recent book, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life, got a big bump in March 2013 when Pope Francis effectively plugged it during his first Angelus address as Pope.
Describing Cardinal Kasper as a “superb theologian,” the Pope said his book on mercy “has done me so much good, so much good.”
“Cardinal Kasper said that feeling mercy, that this word changes everything. This is the best thing we can feel: It changes the world,” the Pope said. “A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient.”
The cardinal’s book is set to be published in English in early May. It includes chapters on mercy from a philosophical point of view, in the Bible and in the teaching of Jesus. The book also has a chapter on how mercy is exercised in the church and asks whether current practices — including those related to the divorced and remarried — are effective reflections of mercy as one of the principal traits of God.
In the past the retired German cardinal has stated his preference for the Church giving Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics.
Speaking to German newspaper Die Zeit in December, he said: “Christians who want to live by faith with the Church, who acknowledge that they have made mistakes by the breaking of the first marriage, which they also regret. For them it should be a way back fully to participate in Christian and ecclesial life.”