Cardinal Walter Kasper has said he is convinced that “in time, doors will be opened” to women at the altar, celebrating the Mass.

Driving the news

“It is difficult to explain” in this day and age the Catholic Church’s insistence that only men celebrate the sacraments, “but I believe that it is an ancient tradition that we share with the Eastern churches”, Kasper said in a December 6 interview with Spanish outlet Religión Digital.

“But I think that, in time, the doors [to women presiding] will be opened.

“Besides, there are already many ministries of the Church for which ordination is not necessary”, added the 86-year-old German cardinal, the President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Reminded that there are many Catholic women not content with being limited to Church ministries that don’t require ordination, Kasper responded:

“Clearly there are some who are raising their voice and have the right to be heard”.

Go deeper

On the subject of the Pope’s reforms more generally, Kasper, who was in Barcelona for a conference on “The contributions of Pope Francis to theology and pastoral care”, said “Francis is convinced that the Holy Spirit has called on him to change or, in other words, renew the Church”.

The Pope “is working on that”, said the cardinal, who has been known as the ‘Pope’s theologian’ ever since Francis singled out for praise his book Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel just four days after becoming Pope.

“The Pope”, Kasper continued, “is quite serene, because he has a great interior self-confidence, an interior compass: the strength of the Spirit”.

Francis also has the benefit of the support of the great majority of Catholics, the German churchman explained.

“The majority of Catholics and the hierarchy are very pleased with this Pope and his updating of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council”, Kasper said.

The cardinal insisted that “the people, the holy people faithful to God, like Francis says, love him very much and will not accept any return to the past”.

Why it matters

As concrete examples of the Pope’s reform agenda, Kasper pointed to Francis’ ongoing reform of the Roman Curia, the Church’s ‘engine room’ in the Vatican, or his remaking of the College of Cardinals.

Other places Francis is taking the Church can be seen in the results of October’s Amazon Synod in the Vatican, said Kasper, describing those outcomes as “very good, including for the universal Church”.

Asked whether the Pope might, in his post-synodal exhortation, go beyond the recommendations of the Synod final document – which included the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood and establishing official Church ministries for women – Kasper said “I think he will”.

In any case – and on the possible ordination of married “men of proven virtue”- the cardinal explained that “celibacy will remain the law” in the Church’s priestly discipline, but the Pope has the authority to order that, in extraordinary cases, those viri probati be ordained”.

For the record

In his interview with Religión Digital, Kasper didn’t shy away from admitting that Pope Francis is receiving “many attacks” from conservatives unhappy with his pontificate.

But the cardinal affirmed that he is “convinced” that Francis’ reform process “will continue on, despite the naysayers”, above all because of the love of the faithful for their Pope.

“There are some who criticise the Pope for certain things he says or does, but with no reason whatsoever, because Francis follows the Gospel”, Kasper stressed.

And besides, the attacks on the Pope are limited to a few small, if very vocal, groups.

“Those who assail the Pope are few, but with the new digital media, a mouse can become an elephant”, Kasper lamented.

Next on Novena:

Cardinal Kasper backs “liturgical blessing” for women Church leaders barred from ordination

Jesuit Superior General denounces plot to oust Pope Francis

Jesuit Superior General takes aim (again) at Francis critics, denounces “political struggle” in Church


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.