"Ecumenism of Martyrs" Presented as Path to Unity

Cardinal Koch Points to Perfect Communion Already Achieved

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By Marine Soreau

MUNICH, Germany, SEPT. 16, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Despite ecumenical efforts, Christians in this world live in a "still imperfect communion.» Martyrs in heavenly glory, however, have already achieved perfect communion. And their blood poured out in defense of the faith can be the seed of full unity in the Body of Christ, says the Vatican’s director of ecumenism.

This reflection was offered Monday by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, when he addressed an interreligious gathering organized by the Catholic lay Sant’Egidio Community. The Sunday through Tuesday event was held in Munich.

Speaking at a round table on Christian Unity and love of the poor, Cardinal Koch noted how Christians are the religious group most persecuted today — in fact 80% of the people suffering for their faith around the world are Christians.

«This disconcerting assessment» is «a great challenge for Christian ecumenism, which is called to manifest a true solidarity,» said the cardinal.

«Given that today all Christian Churches and ecclesial communities have their martyrs, we must speak of a real ecumenism of martyrs, which contains within itself a beautiful promise: Despite the tragedy of the divisions between the Churches, these solid testimonies of faith have shown that God himself maintains, at a more profound level, the communion of faith among the baptized, attested by the supreme sacrifice of their life,» Cardinal Koch reflected.

«Whereas we, as Christians and as Churches, live on this earth in a communion that is still imperfect, the martyrs in the heavenly glory are now in a full and perfect communion,» he explained.

Division overcome 

Citing John Paul II, Cardinal Koch affirmed that martyrs are «the most significant proof that every element of division can be overcome and surmounted in the total gift of oneself for the cause of the Gospel.»

«Still today, as Christians, we must live in the hope that the blood of the martyrs of our time will one day be the seed of the full unity of the Body of Christ,» he said.

Cardinal Koch was careful to point out, however, that this hope should be concretized in real help for persecuted Christians, such as a public outcry over their situation, and social and political efforts to promote religious liberty and human dignity.

«The ecumenism of the martyrs does not only constitute the nucleus of ecumenical spirituality, which is necessary today,» the cardinal said, «but it is also the best example that the promotion of Christian unity and preferential love for the poor are absolutely inseparable.»

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