Walter KASPER, Sacrament of Unity: The Eucharist and the Church. New York: Crossroad, 2004. Pp. 184. $19.95.
Reviewed by Gary MACY, University of San Diego, San Diego, CA 92110

  This little book is a collection of essays, some previously published, that focuses on ecumenism and the Eucharist. Essays one through three are more pastoral than theological, while essays four through six are addressed to professional theologians.

Cardinal Kasper is at his most eloquent and optimistic when speaking of ecumenism. When describing the Church’s world mission as ecumenical, for example, he soars; “On the path of mission, she spreads out and welcomes into herself the entire riches of the peoples and of their cultures; in the ecumenical movement, she lets herself be enriched by the gifts and spiritual experiences of other churches and ecclesial communities.” (148).

The theology of the Eucharist adopted by the book, however, is quite dated.  One looks in vain for any reference to theological works published within the last twenty years. The pastoral suggestions seem to be a careful working out of a compromise position between those closed to further ecumenical movement and others, like Kasper himself, who seem to come to life with the prospects of a unity that is not uniformity.

While the pastoral recommendations will strike some as timid, and while the Eucharistic theology is dated, the book offers such a hopeful view of ecumenism from within the magisterium that it cannot help but encourage those working in that field. In this area, his writing can be delightfully infectious.

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