Cardinal calls for 'self-examination' of Catholic Church

Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Vatican's council for relations with other Christian faiths, has called upon the Catholic Church to critically self-examine itself in view of the "exponential" rise of Pentecostal groups.

The Cardinal was speaking at Saturday's ordination of 23 new cardinals, including the Archbishop of Armargh Sean Brady. Cardinal Kasper said to the Pope and the 143 gathered cardinals that "self-critical examination of conscience" was necessary for the Church, reports AFP.

He continued by saying, "We must not ask first what is wrong with the Pentecostals but ask what our pastoral failings are and come to a spiritual renewal."

It is believed that the Catholic Church's views on divorce and barring re-married Catholics from receiving communion has caused many Catholics to switch over to evangelical and charismatic groups. There are now 400 million evangelicals and charismatics worldwide.

Earlier in May, on a trip to Brazil, Pope Benedict caused offence when he described Pentecostal churches as sects and said that they used aggressive tactics to win souls.

On Saturday, the cardinals spoke of the Catholic Church's relationship with Orthodox and Protestant churches.

Cardinal Kasper spoke highly of the renewal of ties with the Orthodox Church. Earlier this month, the Vatican released a joint declaration with the Orthodox Church in which Orthodox leaders recognised the Roman Catholic Pope as the highest rank in the unified Church.

However, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow Alexis II, did not sign the accord. He represents around 250 million Orthodox christians worldwide. Cardinal Kasper said that a meeting between Alexis II and Pope Benedict would be helpful in healing the rift.

One of the long running complaints of Alexis II is proselytism of Catholics in Russia, reports AFP.

Cardinal Kasper also admitted that earlier this year relations with Protestant churches were harmed by a Vatican document claiming that the Catholic Church was the "one true church of Christ".

According to AFP, the Cardinal said that the amount of criticism of the document was unjustified but conceded that the Catholic Church needed to be more careful in presenting such views.

Cardinal Kasper said that the Catholic Church had to "give witness to the richness and beauty of our own faith in a positive and welcoming way", rather than pointing out the weaknesses of other faiths, reports AFP.

He also said that there were encouraging signs emerging from dialogue with Protestants although there were still "differences in the moral domain", reports AFP.