Cardinal Kasper calls for global church of 'outstretched hand,' living Matthew 25

Rome — German Cardinal Walter Kasper, a noted theologian known to have influenced Pope Francis' understanding of God's mercy, has said the global Catholic church should develop a new spirituality of "having open eyes" and recognizing God's presence more in our brothers and sisters.

The cardinal has also called for a global church "not of the raised moral finger but of the outstretched hand," saying such a church will "give off a ray of light and heat in our world."

In remarks to the World Apostolic Congress of Mercy in Rome Friday, Kasper said that many today ask how we can speak of God or God's mercy when "there is so much misery, so much injustice, so much counter-witness" in the world.

"Jesus gives us a surprising response," said the cardinal, pointing to Jesus' words in Matthew's Gospel: "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."

"These words give us a response," said Kasper. "The response is: You can find me in the poor, in the sick, the refugees, and in all my brothers and sisters in need."

Describing how many mystics and saints decided to communicate with God by becoming distant from the world, the cardinal said there is also a different form of spiritual mysticism.

"The spirituality of having open eyes, which see brothers and sisters in misery and recognizes in them Jesus; that rediscovers that God is not far away," he said. "God waits for us in our brothers and sisters."

"Today we need this spirituality of having open eyes," said Kasper. "By means of our works of mercy we can give witness to the world that God lives in ... our brother or sister and our neighbor in the midst of the world."

The cardinal then criticized a vision of the church that is "closed in on itself -- a church only for the elite that believes in the holy remainder and distances itself from the so-called lost masses."

Kasper instead called for "a church of open doors, overall a poor church for the poor, a church that goes forth, a missionary church that knows it is not possible to speak of God, whose name is Mercy, without living mercy."

"Such a church not of the raised moral finger but of the outstretched hand will give off a ray of light and heat in our world," he said.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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