VATICAN, Apr. 23, 01 (CWNews.com) – Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz, Germany has rekindled the controversy that surrounded his February entry into the College of Cardinals, raising new questions about the papacy and calling for a new Church council.
Cardinal Lehmann told the Italy daily La Stampa that the papacy is "the principal obstacle" to ecumenical progress. The German prelate said that a new council should provide the basis for "greater collegiality" among the world’s bishops.
The German cardinal said that Church leaders should devote some time and study to the proper form of a new council. He rejected the idea of a "Vatican II," saying it would "not be useful" to organize a new council on that basis today. Instead, he suggested "reflecting on the whole web of relations among synods, the Roman Curia, the episcopal conferences, and the College of Cardinals, and defining the specific duties of each."
Cardinal Lehmann said that he had "no intention of calling into question" the role of the Pope, the Curia, or the bishops’ synods. But he did say that "it is time to think about the manner in which the Church should make future decisions on fundamental pastoral questions." He pointed out that Pope John Paul II has encouraged discussions on how the papacy could be changed in order to fit the needs of the new millennium.
Cardinal Lehmann had generated headlines in the past by suggesting that Pope John Paul II might consider resignation if his health problems made it difficult for him to fulfill his duties. In that case, too, the German prelate insisted that he was not actually advocating a resignation, but merely introducing the topic as a theoretical possibility.
The idea of holding a new Church council was brought up in October 1999 by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan, during the Synod for Europe. Cardinal Martini had mentioned that such a council could provide "new and enlarged experiences of collegiality" for the world’s bishops. The topic of collegiality is quite likely to be discussed during a special consistory of the College of Cardinals, called by Pope John Paul for May 21- 24 of this year.