Cardinal Kasper: Pope Francis has launched 'new phase' on Vatican II

Cardinal Kasper: Pope Francis has launched 'new phase' on Vatican II

                German Cardinal Walter Kasper

Cardinal Walter Kasper has an important piece in today’s Osservatore Romano, saying that Pope Francis, with his focus on poverty and social justice issues, has launched a new phase of implementation of the Second Vatican Council.

Cardinal Kasper makes a strong argument that the council’s journey of renewal is not over and that the decades of discussion over its teachings should lead to new “practical consequences.”

Pope Francis, he said, has pointed the way with his emphasis on a church that becomes poor and serves the poor.

“In this sense, Pope Francis from the first day of his pontificate has given what I would call his prophetic interpretation of the council, and has inaugurated a new phase of its reception. He has changed the agenda: at the top are the problems of the Southern hemisphere,” Cardinal Kasper wrote.

It’s useful to remember that it was Pope John XXIII who presented the image of “the church of all, and in particular the church of the poor” shortly before opening Vatican II in 1962.

Cardinal Kasper said Pope Francis’ election had also underlined a related point: that the church's make-up has changed greatly since the time of the council.

“At the beginning of the last century, only a quarter of Catholics lived outside Europe; today only a quarter live in Europe and more than two-thirds of Catholics live in the Southern hemisphere, where the church is growing,” he said.

Cardinal Kasper also noted that Pope Francis appears to be open to a more collegial exercise of papal authority. The role of the pope as a unifying figure in the church should not lead to an “exaggerated centralism,” Kasper said.

“Therefore it was very significant that Pope Francis made reference to the bishop of Rome who presides in charity, echoing the famous statement of Ignatius of Antioch. This is of fundamental importance, not only for the continuation of ecumenical dialogue, above all with Orthodox churches, but also for the Catholic Church itself,” he said.

Cardinal Kasper made several other interesting points in the lengthy article, which so far is available only in Italian:

-- The spirit of optimism toward progress in the world and the sense of journeying toward new frontiers, which marked the beginning of Vatican II, are long gone, the cardinal said.

“For most Catholics, the developments put in motion by the council are part of the church’s daily life. But what they are experiencing is not the great new beginning nor the springtime of the church, which were expected at that time, but rather a church that has a wintery look, and shows clear signs of crisis,” he said.

That doesn't mean Vatican II is no longer relevant, he said, but that “the church needs to take seriously the legitimate requests of the modern age. It needs to defend the faith against pluralism and postmodern relativism, as well as the fundamentalist tendencies that run from reason.”

-- Kasper credited Pope Benedict XVI with promoting a balanced approach to Vatican II, and said the retired pope had a goal of “renewal in continuity.”

At the same time, the cardinal seemed to respond to a talk given by Pope Benedict two weeks before his resignation, in which Benedict said a dominant misinterpretation of the council had “created so many disasters, so many problems, so much suffering: seminaries closed, convents closed, banal liturgy.”

Kasper said some critics still consider Vatican II as “a disaster and the greatest calamity in recent times.” But the cardinal said it was wrong to presume that “everything that happened after the council also happened because of the council,” and that the critics need to look more closely at more general social trends of that era.

-- One reason Vatican II documents have “an enormous potential for conflict” is that compromise language was adopted on many crucial issues, opening the door to selective interpretation in one direction or another, Kasper said.

-- Overall, Vatican II teachings have given new impetus to life in dioceses, parishes and religious communities, especially through liturgical renewal, new spiritual movements, better knowledge of Scripture and dialogue with non-Catholics, he said.

25 comments (Add your own)

1. Rob Kershaw wrote:
Thanks. Walter Kasper is Cardinal the new Pope Francis praised in his first Angelus, calling him a clever and good theologican as well as mentioning that he had been reading his book on mercy. See

FYI, able to access an English translation of Cardinal Kasper's article @

The points made by Kasper regarding Vatican II resemble many of those made at the Oct. 11-12, 2012 Georgetown University Conference on "Vatican II After Fifty Years: Dialogue and Catholic Identity" in its 7 videos and five papers, accessible @ See especially the two papers by Fr. John O'Malley, S.J., Georgetown Professor

"Misdirections: Ten Sure-fire Ways to Mix up the Teachings of Vatican II" (originally published in America, The National Catholic Weekly,Feb 4, 2013 @ (

"Vatican II: The Council of Rapprochement" (originally published in French in Etudes, September 2012)(hyperlink to Word document in English).

Thu, April 11, 2013 @ 5:23 PM

2. Jim Alders wrote:
John, if there were a chapter on Cardinal Casper in Vatican Diaries, what would it say?

Thu, April 11, 2013 @ 7:10 PM

3. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh wrote:
As a Catholic physician, I remember my excitement during Vatican II when I was an undergrad at Loyola University Chicago in the honors pre-med program. We lay people, at that time, felt that the church was finally seeing us as people with callings to be lay people. Before Vatican II, callings to marriage and single life were not respected by the church as callings.

I went on to medical school at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, the country where my immigrant parents were born and where I had many relatives. After many years of practicing medicine in Ireland, England, and in Chicago, I decided to become a part-time graduate student at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola.

I am so saddened by how my church has returned to pre-Vatican II days. The church is back to using dualistic language even at communion time when we can no longer use the wholistic words of "I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." Instead we say "I am not worthy for you to come UNDER MY ROOF, but only say the word and MY SOUL shall be healed."

I believe that the church leaders are not reading the signs of the times. Instead of worrying about the lack of vocations to religious life, there is the need to see that there are many vocations to live in the world as single or married people who love Jesus and who want to give Him glory with their lives. Religious life is seen as inhibiting personal development and growth. Why would the young want to imitate a Dominic or a Francis? The young want to follow the path that God is laying out for them as individuals.

It is confusing to the young to look at the Catholic Church and see that Jesus is not as focused on by religious orders, as the founder of the order is. Young people want to follow Jesus and I believe the religious orders do not want to accept that their days are numbered. We are back to praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life and we are back to pre-Vatican II days, which is not healthy for the future of the church.

Lay people must become the focus and not vocations to religious life, in my view.

Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois

Thu, April 11, 2013 @ 7:38 PM

the documents of Vatican ll are really wonderful to read but not all has reached fruition.

Thu, April 11, 2013 @ 8:31 PM

5. Alice Taylor wrote:
Re Dr. Rosemary Eileen Mc Hugh.
We have not returned to pre Vat. II days. So much of VII was misinterpreted resulting in often poor, if not bad liturgy. BXVI fixed much of that. The reason you do not appreciate the "Lord I am not worthy for you to come under my roof" is because this is the true scripture translation which you are not aware of because you were too young when the VII changes were made.
You meanwhile became a fine physician I'm sure, and you will find much happiness as a lay person.
They are much needed. Keep on praying for vocations. If you look into which seminaries and convents
are filled to capacity, they are those who found the VII corrections. bdc52

Fri, April 12, 2013 @ 12:52 PM

6. Jon dandridge wrote:
I found some of the comments by Dr. McHugh above troubling. So if a young person discerns they have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, they should not bother as their personal growth would be inhibited? In fact the opposite might be true. It does not diminish the importance of vocations to the single or married life to allow that some people do see themselves with a vocation to the religious life. Why put people in a box and rule it out just because the modern world sees no importance in it? Especially given that the modern world's values have moved so far from God's values that it is hard to take them seriously.

Oh and as for the "Lord I am not worthy" the older text was a poor translation of the Latin source document, which in turn is a direct biblical reference. The new translation just brings the English version of the liturgy in line with what every other language translation already has.

God Bless,

Fri, April 12, 2013 @ 1:14 PM

7. James Kohn wrote:
@Dr. McHugh

As a Catholic born in the 80’s after the great ecumenical council of Vatican II, I cannot speak as to the spirit of the time and the feelings on it because quite frankly feelings and the spirit of the time don’t much matter to me as much as being faithful to God. I cant speak to how their was a perception of a lack of calling to being married or single before the council, but just looking at the stats following the council, even up to this day it doesn’t seem like the councils callings did much at least at this point. All I can say is that my Grandparents tell me that they weren’t constantly singled out for the famility vocation because it was something that was expected. Do we need to be told we are special to know we are given special graces including children in our lives?

Oh no the dreaded Pre-Vatican II days! Dualistic language straight from scripture? How can one survive this atrocity? Again its not about you or your feelings on the issue. Only in English speaking countries was the prayer changed. Why you complain about using words like roof and soul is beyond me. It does take going beyond yourself to understand certain things. Children know this but when we become older we lose this ability to percieve and speak beyond the initial layer of meaning.

If the young man wishes to be single or married fantastic, that doesn’t take away from those that choose a religious life. Also what signs of the times do you want them to recognize? We can both promote religious vocations because the priest is the one who brings us Christ and promote family and single vocations in a daily call to holiness. I can’t speak for parishes outside of my own which is under the authority of ICRSP. We have vocations for the religious life there and large families and single parishioners giving everything for the Lord and this all comes from the source and summit of the faith, not from any special feelings or council documents telling people to be holy that they are members of the church, His Body. That just seems obvious. If they wish to follow the ways of Dominic, Francis or even Ignatious then Glory to God for that. If they find another faithful way then great.

It is true that a lot of the orders out there will soon see their days numbered, but you ignore the ones that are faithful to the founder’s charism and the magestaium. Generally the more traditional ones are seeming vocation booms, but they don’t get the media’s attention like sister pant-suit who rides the bus against meanie Ryan, because the traditional ones are not with their enlightened agenda. If for but a moment you attended a Triditine Mass or even a reverent OF parish you would notice that your precept that pre-VII ideas are not healthy or family friendly even to be completely wrong. For 40+ years we were denied the mass of the saints in favor of a mass valid but hastily thrown together and reeping its just rewards. People that act like prior to the council all things were bad are just as bad as those that say after the council everything was bad. Both approaches go against the heremanutic of continuity which Pope Benedict helped us to see.

Too many innovations which were tolerated like altar girls, communion in the hand, EOMOHC’s, irreverent liturgy, the pastoral is better than honest mentality, the facing of the people during the liturgy, talking about the holy sacrifice as a meal, protestant hymns or pop music and so forth have created a different church, one divorced from the past.

“Lay people must become the focus and not vocations to religious life, in my view.” See the above tolerances and see their result. Its not an either or but a both, and. And you can see this in parishes that are dedicated to living out all the teachings of the church, they are lively.

Sincerely, James Kohn

Fri, April 12, 2013 @ 1:31 PM

8. David wrote:
Dr. McHugh, I hope you do realize that the statement "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed" is the proper translation of the prayer as it has always been said, and has a direct correlation to the testament of faith made by the centurion to Christ in the Matthew 8:8. The previous translation was an error that needed correction, just as the translation of "pro multis" into "for all" instead of the correct translation "for many" in the Eucharistic prayer was.

Fri, April 12, 2013 @ 4:58 PM

9. Jim McCrea wrote:
A few years back I attended a seminar on the History of the Papacy under the auspices of the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas.

As part of our "field trips" we visited Cdl. Kasper's office. While there he appeared and wanted to know who we were. When told, he then came to each of us, said "hello, I am Walter Kasper," and shook our hands.

His banishment from favor happened shortly after that.

It is good to see him welcomed back in from the cold.

Fri, April 12, 2013 @ 5:12 PM

10. Simon wrote:
Kasper is certainly correct that not all the chaos that has plagued the Church since the council is therefore rooted in the council; actually very little of it is. But one need not make such a claim to conclude that the council was “a disaster and the greatest calamity in recent times.” One merely needs to conclude that the council opened the door; that it created a psychology within the Church that was open to bringing into the church the insanity that raged everywhere in the world at the time. In that sense it opened the citadel gates to a flood tide that would otherwise, we may confidently assert, have flowed around it.

Fri, April 12, 2013 @ 5:22 PM

11. Chris wrote:
@ dr rosemary. You said: "We are back to praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life and we are back to pre-Vatican II days, which is not healthy for the future of the church.". Unless i have completely misunderstood your point, that's a very topsy-turvy analysis in my view. I hope you are more rational with your medical diagnoses! The scale of the problems we see now in relation to vocations didn't exist until post Vatican II times. Doesn't that tell you something..? We're not praying for vocations BECAUSE we have returned to pre-Vatican II times - quite the opposite - indeed we have not returned to pre-Vatican II times at all. Far from it. Have you noticed we have a new Pope? So far, I don't see anything particular pre-Vatican II about him - but do let us know if you notice a sudden boom in vocations! The kind of Church you seem to suggest young people want (I'm not sure thatmost would agree with you though) is one that is rather dislocated from Catholic tradition - I can think of a few churches they could easily turn to if they are so keen. No, I think young people are desperately looking for clarity of teaching and belief - for authenticity, Catholic truth - which was much more abundant in our pariches and families before the emergence of all that wishy-washy pseudo protestant stuff that was ushered in during the 1970s and 80s and which still clings like mud today.

Fri, April 12, 2013 @ 5:47 PM

12. elcid wrote:
Dr Rosemary....boy do you need to be re-catechized, focus on the laity vs the priesthood! I would think without priests no Eucharist and no church, unless you prefer a protestant type church, personally I would never take communion from a lay person, it was always church teaching that the priests minister the eucharist since they were the mediator between God and the people and were consecrated, of course this all changed after Vatican II.
And whats wrong with young people imitating Sts Dominic or Francis, does the world offer more or does the consecrated life? while I agree with you in the sense that we all have our gifts that God gives us and we can serve him in that capacity that doesn't mean we shouldn't pursue the supernatural over the temporal.
As the Cardnal mention, Benedict referred to the "misinterpretations" of Vatican II that "created so many disasters", anyone with common sense can see the disasters that unfolded over the years.

Fri, April 12, 2013 @ 6:02 PM

13. claire wrote:
Comments have strayed from the post itself, and the hope in it. Too bad.

Sat, April 13, 2013 @ 11:38 AM

14. Deacon John M. Bresnahan wrote:
The good doctor's theme of pre-VII and post-VII as being almost two separate churches achieves nothing but further division. It is this mentality that Pope Benedict saw as harmful to the Church. And I think he is right.

Sat, April 13, 2013 @ 11:56 AM

15. Father Anthony Cekada wrote:
"Kasper said some critics still consider Vatican II as “a disaster and the greatest calamity in recent times.” But the cardinal said it was wrong to presume that “everything that happened after the council also happened because of the council,” and that the critics need to look more closely at more general social trends of that era."

Religious principles have nothing to do with it? A flourishing institution before Vatican II disintegrates instantly as soon as the Council's teachings are applied. Blame it on "society"? Yeah, right...

More of the "hermeneutic of denial."

Sat, April 13, 2013 @ 12:16 PM

16. Peter wrote:
Cardinal Kasper, I believe, made an accurate statement that it is wrong to conclude that “everything that happened after the council also happened because of the council”. While quite young at the time, I remember the transition from the Latin mass facing the wall to the current people-facing version and I felt it was a huge breath of fresh air despite having just memorized my altar boy latin responses! Recently, as an adult with two children in confirmation classes in the English parish in Amsterdam, the students and parents were encouraged to attend, as a group, the Tridentine Latin mass as practiced in a parish in the city. The priest spoke with us before the mass, and was very engaging and clearly a serious-minded man of faith. The mass, however, was an experience in antiquity and had limited religious impact on the attendees. The priest faced the altar the whole time, mumbled his words in Latin, and only occasionally could we respond meaningfully in prayer. Rather than focusing on what was going on in front of us, most of the people in the pews, a few older women, and ourselves, were praying the rosary, something I remembered as well from the pre-Vatican masses. How is "turning your prayers in a different direction from the prayer of the Mass a positive outcome?" If that is what people want to return to in the above-referenced discussion of the "good old pre-protestant days", then it saddens me. I rejoiced in the sincerity and joy of the folk masses I attended as a youth, and I long for those kinds of services that use the vernacular and focus on what's happening at the Eucharistic table. True, many parishes end up with mediocre homilies and bland services with music divorced from the congregants.....but this is not an outcome of Vatican II, it's a result of the abandon of the mystery in the mass and the reverence for it. (as distinguished from morbid solemnity). I currently attend services at a Benedictine house of prayer that has an at will congregation that soulfully sings songs in English and occasionally sings part of the mass in Latin. The music is not a performance, divorced from the actions on the altar and the congregation.....this is one of the great contributions of Vatican II and in it i do rejoice.

Sat, April 13, 2013 @ 2:01 PM

17. jim curry wrote:
et cum spiritu tuo does not mean and also with you, either

Sat, April 13, 2013 @ 2:26 PM

18. Mary, Michigan USA wrote:
Rob Kershaw: Thanks very much for the Google computer Italian to English translation page link for the full story at:
With your help, I was able to find the full story that KAIROS printed in the original Italian. The link is:
If you are able to find any other sources for the FULL article in Italian please post so I can read all of Cardinal Kasper's actual words.
Thank you again for your very helpful posted info. Best regards...

Sun, April 14, 2013 @ 1:40 AM

19. John Halloran wrote:
I find the above discussions, most especially about the liturgy, interesting and troubling. First of all, the debate about "pro multis" was a major debate in the 1960s... one which ended with a decision by Pope Paul VI himself... the correct translation might be "for many"... but the correct interpretation is "for all." It is highly unfortunate that Pope Benedict made the decision to backtrack and to re-interpret something that had been okay-ed at the highest levels of the Church... the same with the role of Eucharistic Ministers around the altar. The meaning of the word "liturgy" is "the work of the people"... not the work of the priest! He is one of the people... and yes, he has a very important role... but it is not to be exaggerated...

And I also have problems with the original statement by Dr. McHugh... we must be about EVERY vocation... and there is a very real need and validity for the laity to be affirmed... and at the same time, for the clergy to take their proper role... at the same time they, too, must be affirmed...

VII has a ways to go... The Council of Trent was a 500 year process... VII is only 60 years out...

and the journey continues!

Sun, April 14, 2013 @ 2:22 AM

20. Otter wrote:
I appreciate Cardinal Kasper's thoughts, and Pope Francis' commitment to the poor. At last, we may see the Church attending to the real mission of Christ, which had everything to do with loving the poor and "least among us," and little to do with words and law. Jesus wasn't a great supporter of Church leaders that couldn't get past law to love. I am finally hopeful.

Sun, April 14, 2013 @ 8:55 AM

21. Brian wrote:
The "pro multis" controversy is silly. The English translations of the words of Our Lord in the gospels say "for many". (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24). Same thing with the "enter under my roof" which is Matthew 8:8.

As to law verses love, that us a false dichotomy. The law of the gospel is love and Our Lord was obedient to the letter of the law through love. He certainly didn't call for ignoring the law, rather he called for the true implementation of the law. It was a "make sure you don't miss the forest for all the trees" thing. That was the problem he had with the Pharisees. Love follows the law and vice versa.

Mon, April 15, 2013 @ 7:20 AM

22. Matt Ruttle wrote:
Please see the Homily of Pope Francis given this morning, April 16. Speaks of the need not to "tame the Holy Spirit" ---- and that the reforms of Vatican II need to be further implemented. Pope Francis stated that we need to be more "docile" to the fire of the Holy Spirit leading us forward in hope. I agree wholeheartedly --- we must respect and honor our Catholic heritage and liturgical traditions ---- but, allow the Spirit to move us forward in grace, peace and life. Your thoughts?
Peace to all this Easter season!

Tue, April 16, 2013 @ 11:09 AM

23. Barbara Schmid wrote:
I am terribly dissapointed that the Pope intends to continue to investigate and reign in the American women Religious. They seem to be the only ones in the church who actually are walking in the footsteps of Jesus. As a cradle Catholic who has finally left the Church in my 73rd year, I was seeing a glimmer of hope in this leader. In the short time he has been in office, he appears to have made up his mind that the politically Conservative abortion stance which the Nuns reject trumps all the social justice work that they do with strength and love. Will this Papacy be the same old same old?

Tue, April 16, 2013 @ 8:04 PM

24. David wrote:
Here we are 50 years after Vatican II, and not only are people still arguing over what Vatican II’s often-ambiguous documents actually mean… but also the process of implementing “the Council” continues, and apparently will continue, in the eyes of these Modernists, for many decades to come.

Can you imagine it taking that long for people to figure out and argue over what the Council of Trent really meant in its decrees, and to implement it ? Or what Pope St Pius V meant in Quo Primum, and how to apply it to the Church?

Before Vatican II, people knew what to expect. But in the post-Vatican II era, it’s endless change (and endless in-fighting.) The Vatican II church lacks all four marks of the true Catholic Church founded by Christ: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

“Cardinal” Kasper is a heretic who said in 2001 : “Today we no longer understand ecumenism in the sense of a return, by which the others would ‘be converted’ and return to being ‘catholics.’ This was expressly abandoned by Vatican II.” This is heresy, and it contradicts the teachings of all pre-Vatican II popes. It also contradicts the Church’s traditional prayers and Liturgy.

I once was a defender of John Paul II and Ratzinger. This was before a lot of information and evidence, that I was unaware of, were presented to me. These last 6 papal claimants are probably not true popes, but rather antipopes, because of heresy. This may sound far-fetched to most, but it is the only logical conclusion I can come to. (If by some off chance I am somehow wrong, I ask forgiveness from the Lord ahead of time.)

Francis/Bergoglio (whom I do not judge personally – and btw I also love the poor) is following the same path of error and ecumenism as his five predecessors. However, it appears that he is going to step it up a notch, by implementing this so-called “new phase” of Vatican II. Scary.

His emphasis on being called “Bishop of Rome,” rather than Pope or Supreme Pontiff should make the liberals in Newchurch shout with glee.

I hope and pray that the remaining well-meaning people in Newchurch (and one could assume there are a number of them) will one day wake up, and forever toss Vatican II into the garbage can. A real restoration of the Faith, and of the Holy Mass, is sorely needed.

Thu, April 18, 2013 @ 1:22 PM

25. Ave Maria wrote:
@ John Halloran:

The Mass is "not the work of the priest" and his role "is not to be exaggerated"?

A priest can say Mass without the people, but the people cannot say Mass without the priest. They cannot say Mass at all. Period. We laymen do the decorations and participate in the graces by uniting ourselves in spirit to the work of Christ, done through the priest. Check out the Baltimore Catechism on this one.

God bless!

Fri, April 19, 2013 @ 9:39 PM

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