Cardinal Walter Kasper was born in Heidenheim-Brenz, Germany, in 1933 and was ordained in 1957. An accomplished theologian and author of many books and articles, Kasper studied at the University of Tobingen where he later became professor of dogmatic theology. He taught at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1983. In 1987 he was ordained bishop of Rottenberg-Stuttgart, Germany.
Widely respected for his work in Christian ecumenical relations, Kasper was chosen in 1979 as one of a dozen Catholic theologians to sit on the World Council of Churches' Faith and Order Commission, one of the most comprehensive theological forums in Christianity. In 1994 he was named co-chairman of the Lutheran-Catholic Commission of Unity and five years later was appointed secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome. On May 3, 2001, Pope John Paul II named Kasper as its president, succeeding the retiring Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy. As president of the council, Kasper is also the president for the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.
Under the leadership of Cardinal Kasper, the Council for Promoting Christian Unity has as its primary function guiding and serving the ecumenical activities of the Catholic Church and is also responsible for Catholic - Jewish relations. Among its numerous activities have been international theological dialogues with the Lutheran World Federation, the Anglican Communion, the World Methodist Council, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Pentecostals, the Disciples of Christ, evangelicals, the Orthodox churches, the Baptist World Alliance, and various Jewish organizations, including the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultation (IJCIC).