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27 February 2015 11:08 by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

Cardinal Walter Kasper has said Pope Francis is engaged in a “radical revolution”, but it is one that might disappoint both progressives and traditionalists.

In his new book, Pope Francis – Revolution of Tenderness and Mercy (published this month in German by the Catholic Bible Society, Stuttgart), Cardinal Kasper says the Pope is neither conservative nor liberal but a radical who wants to bring about a revolution of mercy.

Francis is a pope of surprises who does not fit into our categories of “progressive” or “conservative”, which have meanwhile become “somewhat time-worn and hackneyed”, the cardinal said, adding that Francis clearly distanced himself in his final address at the Extraordinary Synod in October 2014, from both these positions. Cardinal Kasper gave a much-discussed keynote address on the theology of the family to the College of Cardinals in Rome in February last year. He proposed a “penitential path” for divorced and remarried Catholics that might lead to their receiving Communion.

Francis does not represent a liberal but a radical position in the original sense of the word which goes back to the Latin word radix meaning root. The Pope talks a great deal about the Gospels but remarkably little about the Church’s teaching – for him the Magisterium must be interpreted in the light of the Gospel message.

The book is an attempt to “approach the Francis phenomenon theologically”, to throw light on the theological content of his Pontificate and to elucidate the new perspectives it opens up, he explains. In 12 concise chapters, Kasper analyses the Argentinian and European roots of the Pope’s theology which he says cannot be assigned to a particular school of thought. The keynote of Francis’s pontificate is mercy, he says, to which Kasper devotes an entire chapter.

In the epilogue Kasper asks whether Francis will trigger a comprehensive reform or disappoint expectations. Kasper concludes that the Pope’s “revolution of tenderness and love” could disappoint both conservatives and progressives, even though it could prove right in the end, as what the Pope proposes is the “humble way of committed people who can move mountains”.

Meanwhile three churches in the German archdiocese of Freiburg have announced that they will be holding special services for couples who were contemplating separation, had separated or had remarried in a register office, together with their relations and friends, in the course of the coming year. Priests in the archdiocese were frequently asked for a church blessing by remarried divorcees, permanent Deacon Thilo Knöller told the German daily Badische Zeitung. He said he was glad he could refer to the “Handbook for the Pastoral Care and Accompaniment of People in Separation, Divorce and Those who have Remarried in a Register Office” that was published by the Freiburg Archdiocese in October 2013. It allows so-called blessing ceremonies.

In December 2014, the new Archbishop of Freiburg, Stephan Burger, 53, told the German daily Badisches Tagblatt that he could imagine that allowing remarried divorcees to receive communion in certain individual cases might be an option for Pope Francis.

In his book on Pope Francis Cardinal Kasper said that even if the question of the remarried divorcees was “not the only and certainly not the most important question concerning the family”, for many Christians it would seem to have become the “acid test for the sustainability of the (Pope’s) new pastoral style”. It was therefore to be hoped that a decision could be reached with a large consensus so that one could then turn to the profound cultural crisis affecting the family worldwide.