German bishops elect cardinal adviser to Pope Francis as their new head

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Germany’s Catholic bishops elected Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx their new leader on Wednesday, picking a close associate of Pope Francis already working on Vatican reform to also guide them at home.

Marx’s election in Germany, one of the richest and most influential national churches in the 1.2-billion-strong Roman Catholic world, enhanced his status among the men the pope has called on to help him revitalise the Catholic Church.

Known in Germany as a spokesman for social and economic justice, he gave his 2008 book on a just world economy the title “Das Kapital” in a tongue-in-cheek reference to the magnum opus of Karl Marx, the German founder of communism.

Marx is one of the eight cardinals Francis picked last year for a “kitchen cabinet” to advise him on reforming the Vatican and the world church. Last Saturday, the pope also named him head of a new Vatican Council for the Economy.

Franz Josef Jung, religious affairs expert for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, called him “an organiser who is not afraid of discussion about the future of the Church.”

The German church has emerged as a strong advocate of change in Vatican rules, especially to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to be readmitted to the sacraments…

…Marx clashed with the Vatican’s doctrinal chief last year, also a German, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, after Mueller reprimanded the diocese of Freiburg for suggesting that remarried divorcees could be allowed to receive the sacraments.

Mueller “cannot end the discussion” and the debate would continue “on a broad scale”, Marx said in a response that would have been unthinkable back when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict, ran the once all-powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

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