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South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier discusses the Synod on the Family's interim report at a Vatican press conference on October 14, 2014.Patrick Craine / LifeSiteNews

ROME, April 9, 2015 ( — The most influential African prelate involved in the Synod on the Family has strongly criticized German Cardinal Walter Kasper, the de facto leader of the liberal wing at the Synod.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, who heads the archdiocese of Durban, South Africa, and is one of four presidents in charge of running sessions at the 2015 Synod, says Kasper has no business being labeled “the Pope’s theologian,” as many have done, because of the cardinal’s disrespectful attitude toward Africans.

Using his Twitter account to respond to a Huffington Post article on Kasper, Napier said, “It's a real worry to read an expression like ‘the Pope's Theologian’ applied to Cardinal Kasper. Why is it a worry? Unlike Pope Francis Cardinal Kasper isn't very respectful towards the African Church & its Leaders.”

“Card Kasper considers African Bishops to be excessively controlled by taboo & too reticent to address polygamy & similar marriages problems!” Napier concluded.

Kasper came under heavy criticism in October during the Extraordinary Synod on the Family after he made comments to Vatican reporter Edward Pentin that were widely interpreted as disparaging the contributions of African bishops at the Synod.

Africa, he said, “is totally different from the West, especially about gays.” Asked if the majority of Synod fathers listen to the Africans on the issue, he said, “no.”

“They should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he added.

The cardinal initially denied making the comments, but was forced to apologize after Pentin released the audiotape of the interview.


Kasper has been the most high-profile leader of Synod fathers aiming to adopt a more “welcoming” stance towards people in irregular sexual unions, such as the ‘remarried’ and homosexuals.

While Kasper and others in his camp have claimed they are merely seeking a change in Church disciplines, and not divinely-revealed doctrine, their critics say adopting their plan would deny Christ’s teaching on marriage and undermine the integrity of the sacraments.

Cardinal Napier was among those critics at the Extraordinary Synod in October.

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In a video interview with Catholic News Service, Napier rejected Kasper’s Communion proposal and warned that it would mean opening the door to Communion for polygamists as well.

He was also strongly critical of the manipulations of the proceedings by the Synod organizers, openly criticizing the Synod’s controversial interim relatio at a Vatican-run press conference.

The document, meant to summarize the debates at the halfway point, asked whether “accepting and valuing [homosexuals’] sexual orientation” could align with Catholic doctrine; proposed allowing Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics on a “case-by-case basis”; and said pastors should emphasize the “positive aspects” of lifestyles the Church considers gravely sinful, including civil remarriage after divorce and premarital cohabitation.

Napier said that the widespread media coverage claiming the relatio meant the Church would adopt a “softer” stance had meant the Synod fathers were “working from a position that is virtually irredeemable.”

“The message has gone out that this is what the Synod is saying, this is what the Catholic Church is saying, and it’s not what we are saying at all,” he said. “No matter how we try correcting that … there's no way of retrieving it.”

“Whatever we say hereafter is going to be as if we're doing some damage control.”


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