The case is not closed

Cardinal Walter Kasper's answer at the assembly of German bishops

The spring plenary of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) took place in Treviri, from February 18-21. The theme of the symposium was "Cooperation between men and women in Church life and service". Cardinal Walter Kasper, former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, delivered the keynote address ( Follows an excerpt. Listening to the signs of the times. "The past 30 years underwent radical transformations from the social, cultural and intellectual angles. Today we are called to undertake a serious reflection for the promotion of Church mission in contemporary societies". Focusing on the "signs of the times", His Eminence retraced anthropological, ecclesiological and Christological interpretations of crucial questions regarding man-woman relations. "In the Church of the first centuries women played an important role. Although in the Judaic tradition they were considered unworthy of religious witness, women were the first witnesses of the Resurrected Christ. Women have been the spearheads of the first religious communities". The "history of the Church is marked by the contribution of great women". "In baptism and confirmation, with a specific mandate, women can assume full-time or voluntary commitments in all areas of Church life". "Far from providing mere support, women’s contribution is that of full service to the Church". Women can assume such commitments "at local and diocesan level, for the Bishops’ Conference and the universal Church alike". Women could greatly contribute with their charism and their professional skills to the Roman Curia. Moreover, women can represent the Church at all levels in the public domain: in the realms of culture, education, politics and in the media". Even "in the renewal of synod structures, women could take part in the Synods, in pastoral Councils and Commissions". Women’s participation in ordained ministry? The debate on the role of women inside the Church "has univocally shifted its focus onto the question of the presence of women in ordained ministry". Moreover, the issue "is not related to the equal dignity of all Christians". One of the main elements of priestly ministry is the "symbolic-realistic personification of the bridegroom, whose bride is the Church. Biblical sexual symbolism of Eastern and Western Church tradition ascribe this role to the male figure". Not having the possibility of retracing social, cultural and notably Christological reasons underlying this tradition, the Cardinal delved into the question of deaconship: can it be said that all that regards ordained ministry is also applied to deaconship? "There isn’t an explicit Magisterium decision. The question of extending deaconship to women should be addressed". While Eastern Churches have a history of women deacons, and so do Western Churches, although to a lesser degree, "the ordination of women deacons was different from that of men" and so was their role, whereby women "would not serve the Holy Altar and were not sacramentally ordained as the female counterparts of male deacons". In its conclusions the theological Commission argued: "there aren’t sufficient reasons for the adoption of a sacramental deaconship for women in its current understanding of such role, which is unprecedented. The conclusions may disappoint many women. In fact, many women today celebrate diaconal services. This is why the case of women deacons is not closed". In fact, "it is always possible to raise the question: couldn’t the Church reenact what it did in the 3rd-4th centuries, when an order sui generis was established, with women deacons celebrating the baptismal services of adult women? Is it possible for the Church, given the new challenges, to envisage a ministry for women, different from that of priests, with its own specificity?".Everyone’s call to sainthood. "If institutions and structures were unburdened, the Church’s light would shine anew. Certainly, reforms are necessary even today. But unless we fulfill what is required by justice, the minimum gauge of love, our words of love will be void of meaning, and nobody will wish to listen to our words on a civilization of love, nor take them seriously. Without love, everything else is off-key". "The answer to the signs of the times won’t come from Rome, and nor from the Bishops’ Conference. The answer will come from prophetic, zealous, saintly women chosen by God. Charismas can neither be planned nor organized. They often come unexpected, and are different from what we had imagined". "In the history of the Church women have been a source of inspiration for many, they stirred bishops and Popes. The same could happen with the Bishops’ Conferences".

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