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Kasper: 'We will work together'

Discusses fellow professor-turned-Pope Benedict XVI


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Cardinal Walter Kasper
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VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Reaction to Tuesday's election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to pope ranged from joy to disappointment. But a German cardinal who has worked with -- and disagreed with -- the new Pope Benedict XVI urges patience.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome spoke with CNN's Alessio Vinci in the Vatican on Tuesday.

Strict rules of secrecy prevented him from discussing whom he voted for.

VINCI: So, first of all, we want to know what it was like inside the Sistine Chapel for the last day. Give us a little bit of sense, how this vote came about?

KASPER: Well, I cannot tell about the conclave, but it was a very moving event. And for me it's the first conclave I participated, and a sense of high responsibility, not only for the own church but for all churches, for the whole of the world. And then, the first German cardinal after eight centuries, it's also something. Today was the feast day of the last German pope [Victor II]. It was a pope of reformers.

And now, Cardinal Ratzinger, was before my colleague as professor, and now he's pope. It makes moving atmosphere among us.

Now it's an atmosphere of joy.

VINCI: How well do you know Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI? You say you were a colleague of him. You obviously spent a lot of time with him. Tell us things that we don't necessarily know about him. He's been described as a harsh conservative, as God's enforcer, the doctrine.

KASPER: Well, there are lot of prejudices about him, and most of these prejudices are unfair. And I think you should leave these prejudices now and give him at least a chance ...

I know him since the '60s when he was a professor at Munster. I was also a professor there, and we worked together. He can be a very charming person. He's a very bright person known everywhere, and I think he will be a pope of reconciliation and peace. It is the, I think, the inspiration he gave for his name: "peace and reconciliation." And the first meeting -- short -- I had with him, he told me, 'Well, now we will work together, walk together, on the paths to unity of the churches.'

And I think that's a good sign also for the ecumenical movement. He was formerly very engaged especially in the dialogue with the Orthodox churches, and I think he will go on in this direction. I am happy to be able to work together with him.

VINCI: Now, on Sunday, I went to the church where you delivered your homily before going inside the Sistine Chapel. I remember you said two things in the homily. The first thing you said was, we should not choose a clone of John Paul II. And the second one you said, we should choose a good pastor. Do you think that your desires have been met today?

KASPER: Clearly he's not a clone of John Paul II. These are very different personalities. They are very friendly to each other and work very well together. But they are different, very different. I think he's a pastoral man. He will be a pastoral pope, to be a pastor, since the office is job of a pope. And I think he will do his best with the gifts he has. And he has very rich gifts.

VINCI: ... This was a very quick consensus that you reached. In just a couple of votes -- one vote yesterday, two votes this morning. So how quickly everything shifted in favor of Cardinal Ratzinger?

KASPER: ... People wanted an outstanding person, and he is one without any doubt, and they wanted a man who is firm in faith and church doctrine but also a man who can explain faith. It's not only important to have the truth but to communicate truth. And he is very able to do this. And it can have a good impact in this direction in our very religiously indifferent modern world.

VINCI: And you have insisted so much throughout the homilies in recent months and in your interviews how the new pope should be a man of the people and how he should be able to communicate to the younger generation, especially.

Do you think Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has the quality? We know he speaks many languages. We know there's a very important meeting coming up in Cologne, World Youth Day. Do you think he will be able to succeed in communicating to the young people the way John Paul II did?

KASPER: Not in the same way, he can't do it. He's a different person. But I have the impression that Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who is a host of this youth meeting was very, very happy and moved about this election. I think he is of the conviction, of the opinion, that he will very well communicate, also.

VINCI: He is considered a conservative in the church. You are considered a more liberal perhaps ... How will you two work together now?

KASPER: We work together 'til now. We will work together also in the future. Sometimes you have different aspects ... when it comes to the real issue of faith, there was never a difference. But among professionals it is a normal thing to maintain different positions and different aspects. But now he's pope and it's a different relation now.


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