Rethinking the role of the College of Cardinals

College of Cardinals

Cardinal Walter Kasper (pictured), a retired member of the German Curia, has advocated for reevaluating the tasks assigned to the College of Cardinals.

Speaking at a lecture in Salzburg, Kasper highlighted the need for adaptation amidst ongoing synodal changes and decentralisation within the Church.

He suggested revitalising the early Church tradition of provincial and plenary councils to accommodate cultural diversity better.

Kasper proposed a new function for cardinals.

He envisioned them serving as presidents of plenary councils in their respective regions, representing the churches within those areas.

This proposal would establish a bicameral system comprising the Synod of Bishops and the Council of Cardinals.

Kasper presented these ideas during the “Benedictines as Cardinals” symposium at St Peter’s Archabbey in Salzburg.

Cardinals became curia officials

During his lecture “Cardinals in the Service of the Church and the Papacy”, Kasper traced the evolution of the cardinalate. He noted its fluctuating responsibilities and increasing politicisation over time.

Kasper noted that in the late Middle Ages, the cardinals were “increasingly drawn into the decline and decadence of Rome”.

Then, in modern times, cardinals increasingly became curia officials – in parallel to the prince-bishops who continued to exist.

Kasper explained that Pope John XXIII through the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) rediscovered an earlier ecclesiastical leadership function that had been sidelined.

According to Kasper, it is necessary to return to the origins of the College of Cardinals. That is evangelisation and celebrating the Eucharist in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

“Both communion in the Word and communion in the sacrament were given as a guiding principle by the Second Vatican Council in its communion ecclesiology.

“We hope to keep Francis for a few more years; his successors will conclude his reforms” remarked Cardinal Kasper, underscoring the urgency of the proposed reforms.



Il Messaggero

CathNews New Zealand


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