Vatican’s top ecumenist Cardinal Koch assesses progress, prospects

 — Nov. 9, 20119 nov. 2011
by Nancy Frazier O’Brien, Catholic News Service

A top Vatican ecumenist said different types of divisions affect Catholic relations with the Orthodox churches and with those that were born from the Protestant Reformation, but both can be resolved with dialogue.

He also criticized the “anti-Catholic attitude” displayed by some Pentecostals and said Catholics must resist a temptation to adopt the “sometimes problematic evangelical methods” of those churches.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Swiss-born president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke at The Catholic University of America Nov. 3. The title of his talk was “Fundamental Aspects of Ecumenism and Future Perspectives.”

Koch said progress toward Catholic-Orthodox unity became nearly “shipwrecked by the problem” of differences over papal primacy.

Churches that arose from the Protestant Reformation, on the other hand, sometimes diverge from the Catholic Church on the handling of ethical questions, he said, mentioning homosexuality as a “fundamental problem” in particular between the Catholic and Anglican communities.

Koch said Protestant churches have in the past generally agreed with the Catholic Church on ethical issues while disagreeing on matters of faith.

“Today that has been turned on its head, and we can say that ethics divide but faith unites,” he said.

Christian unity would be advanced if all churches could “speak with one voice on the great ethical questions of our time,” the cardinal added.

He said Pentecostals make up the second largest Christian grouping in the world after Catholics and present a “serious challenge.”

Koch also expressed regret that some Christian churches, which he did not name, insisted on conferring baptism again on new members, even if they have been baptized in another Christian church.

“Ecumenism stands or falls on mutual recognition of baptism,” he said.

Posted: Nov. 9, 2011 • Permanent link:
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