(Cardinal Kurt Koch in a 2010 photo, courtesy of CNS.)
The President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, was recently interviewed by the German Catholic news agency KNA. What follows is an English translation of selected questions and answers from that interview.
KNA: Your Eminence, the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity is the occasion for an ecumenical assessment. Where do we stand today?
Cardinal Koch: I hope that we are not standing but rather walking, and that we can take further steps in all the dialogues that we are promoting. And in fact the dialogues are continuing. There are no new major points to mention. Ecumenism today requires a lot of patience.
KNA: In Egypt the new Coptic Patriarch Tawadros has been installed in office. How are relations between Rome and this, the largest ancient Eastern Church?
Cdl. Koch: Very positive. I was present at the enthronement of the Patriarch and had the privilege of conveying to him a message, a greeting from the Holy Father, as well as a wonderful gift, a chalice. This made the new Coptic Pope very happy, and in my opinion contributed substantially to the possibility of deepening relations [between our Churches].
KNA: In Egypt now they are about to found a national council of Churches.
Cdl. Koch: The Christians in Egypt find themselves at the moment in a difficult situation. Collaborating with all of them has to be a concern. I find it very positive that they are seeking common ways [to proceed].
KNA: In 2017 the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is coming up. What is the status of the joint declaration that you have drafted for the occasion with the Lutheran World Federation?
Cdl. Koch: The Declaration should be published soon; right now the translations are being prepared. The document will be entitled “From Conflict to Communion”. Against the background of history it depicts the conflict, but then too everything that the ecumenical dialogue has accomplished in the past fifty years toward greater communion: Where we have been able to ascertain unity, where we have reached agreements and where the obstacles still remain.
KNA: What about the fresh start in the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue? What are you talking about?
Cdl. Koch: The question about the primacy continues to be in the foreground of this ecumenical dialogue—of course in a larger context: How, for instance, could the relation between the synodal character of the Church and the primacy be lived out if ecclesial and Eucharistic “fellowship” or communion existed. This is a long process, in which one also encounters stumbling blocks again and again. I hope that by the end of 2013 or at latest in early 2014 we can organize another plenary assembly and take a substantial step further at it.
KNA: What effects does the Arab Spring have for the situation of the Christians in the region—and also for ecumenism?
Cdl. Koch: I have problems with talking about an Arab Spring; often I get the impression instead that it is an Islamist Winter. In many countries, for instance in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and also in Turkey, one can observe a re-Islamization that causes the local Christians great concern. They fear that in the future their situation could become even more difficult. This situation calls for more attention and solidarity from Christians worldwide. We must listen very sympathetically to our brethren in these regions and should not project our own ideas onto their situation.
[Translated from German by Michael J. Miller.]