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The man who succeeds Pope John Paul II as leader of the world's biggest church must neither "polarize" nor "divide" the church, according to one of the world's leading Catholic theologians.

In an exclusive interview with Ecumenical News International (ENI) during the Third Parliament of the World's Religions (PWR), which is taking place in Cape Town until December 8, Hans Kung, a prominent Catholic theologian and philosopher, shared his vision of the next pontiff.

Although Kung did not directly criticize Pope John Paul, he suggested that the successor to the current pontiff would need to have a very different personality. "He should be a pope who is not polarizing and dividing the church, who is not presenting a contradictory position between his foreign policy for human rights and justice on the one hand and [on the other hand] a domestic policy [within the church] which suppresses human rights and justice.

"We want a pope more on the line of Pope John XXIII who is not hindering reforms but who is leading those reforms we sorely need," a reference to John XXIII's convening the Second Vatican Council after becoming pope in 1958; the council led to a major reform of the Catholic Church.

In particular, Kung said, the Catholic Church needed to tackle the problems of sexual morality, "especially this impossible encyclical Humanae Vitae [a papal document forbidding Catholics from using contraceptives] and celibacy [according to which Catholic priests may not marry] which deprives our parishes more and more of priests and is leading the church into a rather catastrophic situation."

Kung welcomed a recent agreement between the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation on the doctrine of justification, one of the main points at issue ...

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December 6, 1999

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