HT to Catholic Conclave – but nothing about the Ordinariates.
Pope Francis will return the Church to its roots in the Gospel, in the struggle for justice and against poverty: This was the impression of the German Cardinal and former Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Walter Kasper who in the conclave on Tuesday and Wednesday had co-elected the new Pope. In an interview with our Editor Ludger Moller, Kasper describes the expected future developments to the church.
SZ: Your Eminence, you have emerged the conclave. How do you feel about the new Pope Francis?
Kasper: Cardinal Bergoglio was from the beginning my candidate and I have from the beginning of the Conclave voted for him. He represents a new beginning in the Church, for a humble and fraternal church that is there for people which returns to Her source, the Gospel. His name as Pope, Francis, is a program, which is reminiscent of St. Francis of Assisi, who heard the call of Christ: “Re-build my Church!”
SZ: What developments can we expect?
Kasper: We can expect a new style. The new Pope will forgo pomp and circumstance, he lives plainly and simply and is thus a personal role model. A small example: After the conclave, the Papal limousine was waiting for him. Francis, however, after all the newly elected pope, along with us cardinals, climbed aboard the bus that took us back to the Santa Marta House: “We have come together, we go together.” The Papal limousine drove away empty. And in his first speech, he asked the people to first ask for God’s blessing for him before he even blessed them.
SZ: What is personally important to the new Pope?
Kasper: He will be a bishop of the poor. He will fight against corruption. He is concerned above all compassion. In the pre-Conclave, I handed him my new book called “Mercy”, which has just been published in Spanish. He said to me: “Compassion is the name of our God! Without it we are lost. ”
SZ: Francis: What program lies behind this name which the new Pope has given himself?
Kasper: Saint Francis of Assisi lived in an age in which the Church was very powerful. But he wanted to live the Gospel with the poor. He made a significant reform. The Franciscans are called to this day “Friars Minor”. And we must understand the choice of name of the new pope: He is concerned with apostolic simplicity, simplicity, poverty. He wants to reach the heart, and he does so with a simple, but impressive language.
SZ: Did the idea of the message of the integrity of creation played a role in the election of the Pope?
Kasper: Of course Francis stands for ecology and preservation of creation. Nobody disputes that these ideas are important. They however did not play a decisive role in the Conclave.
SZ: Where does the new Pope stand theologically? Is he conservative? Or more liberal?
Kasper: Theologically, he is on the line of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. But he will proclaim this teaching in a different style and make the original content of the Gospel shine forth.
SZ: You have spoken out early for Cardinal Bergoglio. On what basis did you do this?
Kasper: The new Pope and I have known eachother for many years. I have been at least three times to Buenos Aires, where we met. We spoke Italian to each other. Only now I have learned that he has studied in Germany and speaks German. Immediately after the election of a pope, when we cardinals promised him loyalty, he spoke to me in German. By the way we lived during the conclave on the same corridor, he had his own room diagonally across from my room.
SZ: In Germany there are high expectations of the Pope. Keywords are celibacy, ordination of women, participation of the laity. What should can the Germans expect from Pope Francis?
Kasper: He will listen to the desires expressed in Germany with assured attention. But I doubt that he can fulfill all these requirements. At the center, are probably more the concerns of the southern hemisphere, where existential questions matter such as justice, fundamental human rights, war and peace.
SZ: The conclave was soon over. Many observers had expected a lot more ballots!
Kasper: I myself was also surprised to find that we have agreed so quickly. At the beginning of the Conclave the votes scatter, then they pile up. More and more candidates drop out. That was the case in 2005 when Benedict XVI. was elected, as it was now.
SZ: Were there any reservations about electing a Pope who does not come from Europe?
Kasper: No, quite the contrary. Two-thirds, if not three quarters of Catholics now live in the southern hemisphere. There the Church is growing, while ours shows clear signs of fatigue. Those are powerful arguments. Therefore it is appropriate to choose a Pope from Latin America, where nearly half of all Catholics live. The time of Eurocentrism in the Church is over.
SZ: You, too, have called for a new beginning before the conclave in the Vatican. How strongly is this desire shared by the other cardinals?
Kasper: There is a very large desire for Curial reform among the cardinals , almost unanimous. The crises of recent years have cost us a lot of confidence. Even if what has been discussed and written about is not all true, the talk itself is enough to destroy trust.
SZ: Can Pope Francis establish this trust again?
Kasper: He is very assertive, has a strong will. It was important for us the Cardinals that the new pope can govern and create order, even if not everything will be possible from today until tomorrow.
SZ: A new beginning without new staff is not conceivable. What do you expect here?
Kasper: Francis is certain to appoint a new Secretary of State Cardinal and also make new appointments to some other important posts in the Curia. Equally important is a change in mentality. Even for that, time is needed. But a new beginning there will be.