The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity addressed today the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican leaders, under way in England through this weekend.
L'Osservatore Romano published an Italian-language transcript of his address, which began with an assurance of the spiritual closeness of Benedict XVI.
"I know that many of you are worried, some deeply worried, by the threat of fragmentation at the heart of the Anglican Communion," the cardinal said. "We are profoundly in solidarity with you.
"Our great desire is that the Anglican Communion be united, rooted in this historical faith, which our dialogue and relationships, over the course of four decades, have brought us to believe is widely shared."
Cardinal Kasper directly addressed the two issues that are causing conflict within the Anglican Communion, and which brought some leaders to boycott the Lambeth Conference altogether: the ordination of homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex marriages, and the ordination of women.
He assured his listeners that the Catholic Church believes its position on both issues is deeply rooted in sacred Scripture.
"In light of the tensions of past years in regard [to questions on human sexuality], a clear declaration from the Anglican Communion would offer us greater possibilities to provide a common testimony on human sexuality and matrimony, a testimony painfully necessary for the world of today," Cardinal Kasper suggested.
Regarding the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate, the Vatican official affirmed: "I have to be clear concerning the new situation that has been created in our ecumenical relations. If our dialogue has produced a significant accord on the idea of the priesthood, the ordination of women to the episcopate substantially and definitively blocks a possible recognition of Anglican orders by the Catholic Church."
The cardinal recalled Church teaching that the practice of ordaining only men comes directly from Christ, and the Church is not in a position to change it.
He was clear that the decision to go forward with the episcopal ordination of women would have dire effects on ecumenical relations.
"We desire the continuation of theological dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church," he affirmed, "but this last step undermines our objective and alters the level that we are seeking in dialogue. Now it seems that full, visible communion, as the objective of our dialogue, has taken a step backward, that our dialogue will have less defined objectives and, therefore, its nature will be changed.
"Though this dialogue can still produce good results, it will not be supported by the dynamism that comes from the realistic possibility of the union that Christ demands of us or of the common participation at the table of the one Lord, which we desire so ardently."