The Second Vatican Council had left many questions open which must now be tackled, the emeritus President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion for Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, has said.
“Half a century has now passed since the Council. We cannot simply stand still and must have the courage to move on especially on the questions of women’s role in the Church and on synodality,” Kasper said in a podcast interview on Bavarian radio Bayrischer Rundfunk on 19 January.
The late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who as a young theologian had himself taken part in the Second Vatican Council, had perhaps not seen this urgent need to continue with Church reform and had therefore “strongly intervened” against any plans for it in his time as Pope, Kasper pointed out.
For Benedict there were “two Councils” – “his” Council was the one that took place in Council Aula from 1962-1965. The second Council in Ratzinger’s eyes was the Council that journalists had made of the Council, the cardinal explained.
Although the relationship between Benedict and Francis had been “very friendly”, there was one essential difference between them. For Benedict church doctrine had always taken first place, while for Francis it was always the Gospel.
One could not speak of a sea change as far as Benedict’s theological works were concerned. He himself could not see any “great breakthroughs” in them, but in the post-conciliar period Ratzinger’s writings had had a calming effect on many Catholics and had helped them better to understand their faith. That also applied to his books on Jesus Christ.
Kasper criticised Benedict’s “fans” for “monopolising” and “instrumentalising” the Pope Emeritus. They had thereby under-appreciated the complexity of his thinking.
“I would say that neither his fans nor his harsh critics really understood Benedict,” Kasper said.He himself had experienced Benedict as absolutely open to criticisms but in his public commentaries “he unfortunately often expressed himself differently”.