Cardinal Kurt Koch

As the election of the new Roman Pontiff approaches, ZENIT will feature several biographies on some of the Cardinals who are in Rome for the Conclave.

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Cardinal Kurt Koch, the current president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was born in 1950, in the Swiss town of Emmenbrucke, in the diocese of Basle. After graduating from his secondary studies in 1970, young Kurt Koch began his studies in Catholic Theology at the Faculty of Lucerne and then at Monaco, in Bavaria, Germany.

Upon receiving his degree in 1975, the future cardinal carried out pastoral work for a year in the parish of Sursee. From 1976 to 1978, he collaborated on a research project with the Iustitia et Pax Commission on the problems of human life in today’s society from the Christian ethical point of view.

From 1979 to 1982, he continued his theological studies, becoming assistant professor at the Theological Faculty of Lucerne. Ordained priest in 1982, Kurt Koch obtained a doctorate in 1987 with a thesis on the theology of history in Wolfhart Pannenberg.

He went on to became docent of Dogmatic and Moral Theology at the University of Zurich, before being appointed,  in 1989, professor of Dogmatic Theology and Liturgy and of Ecumenical Theology at Lucerne.

In 1995, Koch was appointed bishop  of Basle by Pope John Paul II. The motto chosen by the young bishop was Ut sit in omnibus Christus primatum tenens (That Christ Be before Everything). From 1998 to 2006 he was vice-president of the Swiss Episcopal Conference, of which he became president from 2007 to 2009.

Cardinal Koch is known above all for his commitment to dialogue with other Churches and Christian denominations. Hence it wasn’t a surprise when Benedict XVI called him to Rome in the summer of 2010 to appoint him president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, of which he had been a member since 2002. In 2010 the prelate was created cardinal.

Theologian Kurt Koch, who forms part of the so-called Ratzinger Circle of Alumni, is a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Interviewed by ZENIT on the eve of the 2013 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Cardinal Koch evaluated the dialogue between the Churches. “After fifty years, namely after the opening of the Council, we have been able to gather many fruits,” said the cardinal. “We now have sixteen dialogues with other Churches and other Christian communities worldwide,” he added. The cardinal explained that “we have been able to weave a network of friendship with several Churches and ecclesial communities, which are no longer enemies and acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters; this above all in Baptism, which is the true foundation of everything.”

Then, remembering the words of Blessed John Paul II, who said that ecumenism is not only an exchange of ideas but “an exchange of gifts,” the Swiss cardinal stressed also that “we mustn’t be afraid of ecumenism, because it is an enrichment.” “My personal experience is that, with ecumenism, I have become much more Catholic,” he concluded.

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