Cardinal Lehmann Reflects on Impact of John Paul II

Says Pope Has Renewed Church With Proclamation of Gospel

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BERLIN, OCT. 3, 2003 ( The president of the German bishops’ conference says that John Paul II has effected a reform in the Church over the past 25 years with his proclamation of the Gospel to the world.

In an interview with Deutsche Press-Agentur, Cardinal Karl Lehmann said he does not share the criticism of those who claim the Pope’s insistence on priestly celibacy and an all-male priesthood is responsible for stagnation in the Church.

Excessive importance should not be given to certain specific topics, the cardinal said. What is important is to concentrate on the proclamation of the Gospel, and on defending it against misinterpretations and abuses, he added.

«In those fundamental tasks I see no stagnation whatsoever,» Cardinal Lehmann said.

In the interview, the cardinal highlighted the Holy Father’s role in the fall of the Iron Curtain. «The Pope doesn’t like to speak about it, but it is clear that with his defense of human rights and denunciation of injustice he strengthened resistance against the Communist regimes,» he said.

Above all, he said, he sees the Pope as «a fighter for peace and human rights, and as an imperturbable witness of the Gospel throughout the world.»

Asked about the qualities that John Paul II’s successor should have, Cardinal Lehmann said he is «not thinking so much about this as some believe.» He noted that papal elections often have an unexpected result.

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