The Vatican instruction on the reform of Catholic parishes continues to stir debate in Germany, where some bishops say the current parish model with a priest in charge is no longer sustainable because of a lack of vocations. Source: CNS.
Former Cardinal Walter Kasper defended the paper following widespread criticism, such as by Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen, who said: “In no manner does the instruction take note of the fact that we in Germany – but also in many other countries of the universal church – can no longer shape Church life according to the model of the people’s Church we have known up till now.” Critics especially cited the lack of priests.
The German Catholic news agency KNA reported that, in a guest commentary for the Church website domradio.de in Cologne, Cardinal Kasper wrote: “The German criticism completely misses the actual point of the instruction, the pastoral conversion to missionary pastoral work.”
Cardinal Kasper, who was responsible for ecumenical relations at the Vatican for many years, said the first chapters of the document and the summary made extensive reference to the common responsibility of the whole congregation. Emphasising the responsibility of the parish priest was theologically legitimate, he said.
He added that the “perennial debate” over celibacy, the ordination of women priests and management teams was causing uncertainty, which was to blame for the shortage of priests, alongside other factors. The cardinal said the document tied bishops to enforceable criteria if they want to restructure parishes.