A well-known mainstay of the Roman curia is getting ready to enjoy a well-earned retirement. At 77 years, Walter Cardinal Kasper is already past the age at which bishops and cardinals have to offer to resignation, which is 75. Most of the time, unless health issues demand otherwise, the pope will wait a while before accepting that resignation, as he has in the case of Cardinal Kasper.
Cardinal Kasper was especially visible for the past 11 years because he headed the Vatican office which is in charge of ecumenism with other Christian church communities and other faiths, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In that capacity, I’ve seen him once, during an ecumenical service in Utrecht
Yesterday the famously gap-toothed cardinal gave a press conference in which he looked back on the past years. “I leave my office with hope, which is not human optimism, but Christian hope,” he said. Ecumenism is “a constituent of the Church,” he also said. It is part of her very being, which makes sense. The Church has been tasked to spread the news of Jesus Christ, so isolation from others is simply not an option. And much of the truth of the faith is visible in other Christian churches and church communities, and to a lesser extent also in Judaism and Islam. Good relations with these are a first necessary step towards further unity in friendship.
While the cardinal has not officially stepped down yet, and no successor has officially been named,the general consensus is that a change is imminent. The name of Bishop Kurt Koch, currently the bishop of Basel in Switzerland, is being bandied about, though.