Vatican's Christian Unity Official Resigns at 77

Cardinal Kasper Acknowledges Mixed Feelings About Stepping Down

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 25, 2010 (Zenit.org).- After more than 10 years as the point man for the Church's efforts to promote Christian unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper today announced his resignation as president of the pontifical council dedicated to that cause.



The 77-year-old German cardinal acknowledged mixed feelings about leaving the post.

"On one hand, at 77 to be retired is something altogether normal, in fact a liberation," he said. "On the other hand, however, I leave a work that I have done with enthusiasm."

He told journalists that ecumenism cannot be considered a "luxury" for the Church, but that it is fundamental, "one of her main objectives, and the same is true for religious relations with Judaism."

Cardinal Kasper's successor has not yet been announced.

"For 11 years this has been my task -- not only demanding but fascinating," he said. "An experience that absolutely marks a person."

Life experience

Walter Kasper was born on March 5, 1933, in Heidenheim/Brenz, Germany. He was ordained for the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart in 1957 and holds a doctorate in theology from the Theological Faculty of Tubingen.

For three years he worked as an assistant to Leo Scheffczyk and Hans Kung. He later taught dogmatic theology and was dean of the theological faculty in Munster and later in Tubingen.

In 1989, he was appointed bishop of the diocese where he'd served as a priest. In 1999, he was made secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and in 2001, the same year he was made a cardinal, he became its president.

Solid foundations

Cardinal Kasper described ecumenism as work that is "not done at the desk."

"Dialogue is life," he said. "Dialogue is an integral part of the life of the Church."

And the prelate was positive about the future of efforts to build Christian unity.
 
There is, he said, "a solid network of human relationships among Christians that, I am sure, will also be able to resist less favorable events" and represents "a secure basis for further steps forward."
 
"The fulcrum and soul of such a vital ecumenism is spiritual ecumenism," the cardinal asserted. "The unity of the Church cannot be planned or fabricated."
 
"I leave the office with hope, which is not human optimism, but Christian hope," he reflected. The torch now passes to a new generation that "will surely look at the dialogues undertaken with new eyes."