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Walter Kasper (born 5 March 1933 in Heidenheim an der Brenzmarker) is a Germanmarker Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He currently serves as President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in the Roman Curia, and Cardinal Deacon of Ognissanti in Via Appia Nuova. An accomplished theologian, Kasper can speak in German, English, and Italian.

Early life

Born in Heidenheim an der Brenz, Germanymarker, Kasper was ordained a priest on 6 April 1957 by Bishop Carl Leiprecht of Rottenburg. From 1957 to 1958 he was a parochial vicar in a Stuttgartmarker. He returned to his studies, and earned a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the University of Tübingenmarker. He was a faculty member at Tübingen from 1958 to 1961, and worked for three years as an assistant to the conservative Leo Scheffczyk and the liberal Hans Küng, who was banned from teaching by the Church due to his views on contraception and papal infallibility. He later taught dogmatic theology at the Westphalian University of Münstermarker (1964-1970), rising to become dean of the theological faculty in 1969, and then the same in Tübingen in 1970. In 1983, Kasper taught as a visiting professor at The Catholic University of Americamarker. He was editor of the Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche.

Bishop and Cardinal

Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart

Kasper was named Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Germany's fourth largest Catholic diocese, on 17 April 1989. He was consecrated on 17 June that same year by Archbishop Oskar Saier of Freiburg im Breisgau; Bishops Karl Lehmann and Franz Kuhnle served as co-consecrators. In 1993 he and other members of the German episcopate signed a pastoral letter allowing divorced and civilly remarried German Catholics to return to the sacraments, to the disapproval of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1994, he was named co-chair of the International Commission for Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue.

Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

On 16 March 1999, Kasper was appointed President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and resigned from his post in Rottenburg-Stuttgart on that 16 March. He was elevated to the cardinalate by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of 21 February 2001 (along with Leo Scheffczyk), and was assigned the title of Ognissanti in Via Appia Nuova. Later that year, on 3 March, he was appointed President of Promoting Christian Unity - and as such, President of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews - upon the retirement of Edward Idris Cassidy. He was critical of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document Dominus Iesus, issued in 2000, which he believed was an offense to the Jewish people. He is often criticized by conservatives for his role in ecumenism.


In 2003, he wrote a text called Anti-semitism: A wound to be healed for the European Day of Jewish Culture. On July 10, 2004, at the Latin-American Rabbinical Seminary of Buenos Aires, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and the Angelo Roncalli Committee presented to Cardinal Kasper the "Memorial Mural Award", for his lifetime dedication to the causes of understanding and reconciliation between Jews and Catholics.

International Theological Commission

He is also a member of the International Theological Commission, an advisory body to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Upon the death of John Paul II on 2 April 2005, Kasper and all major Vatican officials, in accord with custom, automatically lost their positions during the sede vacante. Kasper was later confirmed as President of Promoting Christian Unity by Pope Benedict XVI on the following 21 April. He was a cardinal elector in the 2005 papal conclave. He has repeatedly led official delegations of the Vatican on the annual visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchatemarker in Constantinoplemarker, on the occasion of the Patronal Feast of Saint Andrew. In August 2007, he was the head of the Roman Catholic delegation that participated at the funeral ceremony of the Patriarch of the Romanian Christian Orthodox Church, Teoctist.

Book on the Eucharist

In 2005, Kasper wrote a book entitled Sacrament Of Unity : The Eucharist And The Church, a reflection on the Eucharist which is partly inspired by John Paul II's encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. In this book, he strongly insisted on the sacrificial character of the holy host, a sacrificial aspect which was somewhat blurred after the Council.

Society of Saint Pius X

In January 2009, Kasper told the New York Times that he had little, if any, input on whether to lift the excommunication of four bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X. This action was especially controversial because of the views of one of the bishops regarding the Holocaust, although his views on this matter had nothing to do with the original excommunication: British-born Bishop Richard Williamson has claimed that reports about the Holocaust were exaggerated and that no Jews died in Nazi gas chambers. [124406]

As the Vatican official responsible for relations with the Jewish religion, Kasper felt it necessary to comment on the action and the process leading up to it. Cardinal Kasper said that:"Up to now people in the Vatican have spoken too little with each other and have not checked where problems might arise". In reference to the lifting of the excommunications, he continued, saying that "there were misunderstandings and management errors in the Curia," .


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