Church unity cannot be manufactured, Cardinal Kasper says as retirement nears

Cardinal Walter Kasper, at 77 years old, is wrapping up his tenure as the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. On Friday, he reflected on his years in the position and the importance of dialogue to the life of the Church.

“I have come to the end of my service," the cardinal told reporters in a press conference from the council's offices near the Vatican, during which, according to excerpts of his address printed by the Italian bishops' SIR news, he recalled his 11 years at the helm as not only demanding, but "riveting."

As president of the dicastery he has been responsible for promoting dialogue between the Universal Church and other Christian denominations, in addition he has dedicated himself to building inter-religious relations particularly between Catholics, Jews and Muslims.

Commenting on the current state of ecumenical and inter-religious relations, he said that personal relations of respect, esteem, confidence and friendship are vital to successful dialogue.

“Whenever such relations are missing, there cannot be any fruitful dialogue, which is always a dialogue of life. Ecumenism is not done from one’s desk. Dialogue is life. Dialogue is an integral part of the life of the Church.”

Referring to today's environment, he said that the ecumenical groundwork in place now is a "sound network of human relationships with Christians" which is durable and solid. This network, the cardinal said, will help achieve further progress.

This, he said, "is the real ecumenical innovation," adding that "the focus and the soul of such a lively ecumenism is spiritual ecumenism.

"The unity of the Church cannot be planned or manufactured,” he noted.

Reflecting on ups and downs of his time as president, he said, “I leave my office with hope, which is not human optimism, but Christian hope." Cardinal Kasper also said he is confident that “ecumenism is not an extra, but a constituent of the Church.”

He concluded by saying that the "torch" would now be taken over by a new generation who will bring a fresh vision to dialogue.

No one has been nominated as the future president of the dicastery, and Cardinal Kasper has not officially stepped down, but it is widely known that a change is imminent.

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