Cardinal Koch Affirms Pontiff's Interest in Ecumenism

Notes Vocation to Give Everything for the Church

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By Carmen Elena Villa

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2010 ( The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity says that his nomination to become cardinal was unexpected, and a sign of the importance Benedict XVI places on ecumenism.

Cardinal Kurt Koch told ZENIT that after 13 years of episcopal service, he received the nomination for cardinal «with the same thoughts of John Henry Newman when he was nominated cardinal by Leo XIII,» namely, he was «very surprised.»
The cardinal said that he did not expect it because he has only been heading the dicastery for four months, but he thinks the elevation to cardinal is «a sign of the Holy Father of the importance that he wishes to give ecumenism.»
«To belong to the College of Cardinals is not so much an honor as a challenge: to be ready to give everything for the Church and to be in a very close relationship with the Holy Father,» he said.
The prelate, who became a cardinal on Nov. 20, was born 60 years ago in Emmenbrucke (Lucerne, Switzerland). He is the ninth cardinal in Swiss history.
Author of several books, he was ordained a priest in 1982 and worked as vicar in the parish of St. Mary in Berne until 1985. As a priest, Father Koch obtained a doctorate in Lucerne, was docent of moral theology at the catechetical institute of the faculty of Lucerne and docent of fundamental theology in the course for lay Catholics in Zurich.
In 1997 John Paul II appointed him bishop of Basel, an experience that, he admits, gave him «great joy.»

Cardinal Koch explained to ZENIT that ecumenism «has always been in my heart given that in my country, Switzerland, Protestants are very close.»

«I am also very interested in the Orthodox Churches,» he added.

«The Churches and ecclesial communities in Switzerland born from the Reformation are a special case,» the cardinal said.

He continued: «The great challenge is the ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox.

«We have a foundation of faith but very great diversity of culture, whereas in the churches of the Reformation the foundation of the faith is not that common but the culture is. With them there is another way of doing ecumenism, which is not always easy.»
From 2006 to 2010 the prelate was president of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference. «It was good work,» he recalled. «Being president opened my eyes very much to the Church in Europe, but the work in the diocese continued, so it was necessary to find the things we had in common, which is not always easy.»
The cardinal described the four months at the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity as «a beautiful ecumenical experience.»
«I am very happy to have this responsibility,» he said, explaining that the meetings with the leaders of other Christian confessions «can present our Church and its identity.»
Cardinal Koch then recalled the moment in which he received the cardinal’s berretta. «The most important sign is the homily given by the Holy Father in giving the rings,» he said.
He noted the words of Benedict XVI the day after the consistory: «Jesus can build his Church on us the more he finds in us that true, paschal faith, that faith that does not want to make Jesus come down from the Cross, but entrusts itself to him on the Cross.»

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