Pope does not fit conventional theological labels, says Kasper

Pope Francis does not fit into the worn out categories of conservative or liberal, says the cardinal who has been dubbed “the Pope’s theologian”.

In a lecture in Washington, D.C. last week, Cardinal Walter Kasper said Francis “cannot be categorised, much less appropriated, by any specific [theological] school”.

“He’s not an academic theologian in the professional sense, but a man of encounter and practice,” the cardinal said.

For Pope Francis, “reality has primacy over ideas”, Cardinal Kasper explained.

And with a focus on the Gospel, he “is intent on overcoming the absence of joy in the Church and the modern world”.

This became evident from the earliest days of his pontificate, and ordinary people have warmed to it, the German theologian said.

But, “as one would expect”, he said, “there are of course the critical voices who say, ‘This pope does not please us because he pleases too much’.”

Rather, Pope Francis “wants to initiate a new beginning for the Church”, Cardinal Kasper said, but not by destroying tradition.

Rather, “Pope Francis stands in a great tradition, reaching back to the earliest beginnings”.

“He does not represent a liberal position, but a radical position, understood in the original sense of the word as going back to the roots, the radix.”

By reaching back through time, he is, in fact, “constructing a bridge to the future”.

At the centre of Pope Francis’ vision stands the concept of mercy, Cardinal Kasper said – “God’s mercy”.

“Mercy has become the theme of his pontificate,” he said.

“Nevertheless, for some, the Pope’s talk of mercy has become uncomfortable,” Cardinal Kasper said.

“They sense danger lurking behind it.”

But “when correctly understood, mercy is not a yielding pastoral weakness”; it is “revealed truth”.

“It does not abolish justice, but outdoes it.”

Pope Francis’ style is not one of “benevolent popularism,” Cardinal Kasper said. “His pastoral style is based on a whole theology.”

He wants the participation of the People of God in the life of the Church, the cardinal explained.


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