CNA Staff, Jul 27, 2020 / 07:00 am
Cardinal Walter Kasper has defended a new Vatican instruction on parishes after it was criticized by several German bishops.
In a July 27 guest commentary for Domradio, the radio station of Cologne archdiocese, Kasper said that critics missed the document’s central point.
“The German criticism completely misses the actual concern of the instruction: the pastoral conversion to a missionary footing. But precisely this basic concern of Pope Francis would be highly topical in view of the disturbing recently published numbers of departures from the Church.”
Kasper, a theologian and former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was referring to statistics issued last month which showed that a record number of Catholics left the Church in Germany in 2019.
He said it was not appropriate to speak of “authoritarian neoclericalism” in relation to the document, which was issued July 20 by the Congregation for Clergy.
The instruction, called “The pastoral conversion of the parish community in the service of the evangelizing mission of the Church,” set out guidelines on reforming parishes and restructuring dioceses to better serve their “singular mission of evangelization.”
A number of German bishops took issue with the document, including Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, vice-president of the German bishops’ conference, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis. Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, however, welcomed the Vatican’s intervention.
Kasper argued that the text’s critics had overlooked the instruction’s opening section and summary, which emphasized the common responsibility of the whole people of God for parishes.