Bishop Koch replaces Cardinal Kasper at the Council for Promoting Christian Unity

Source: FSSPX News

In a letter addressed to the clergy of the Diocese of Basel, dated June 29, Bishop Kurt Koch announced his nomination as head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to replace Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has reached the age of retirement. The Bishop of Basel has become president of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews as well. “With the task that has been given to me presently,” he writes, “I bear the responsibility for the ecumenical dialogues in which our Church is involved. At the same time I am responsible for religious relations with Judaism, to which our Church is connected in a special way. I am pleased with this task and hope to be able to address, with all my strength, these challenges that have become so significant since the Second Vatican Council.”

In his letter, Bishop Koch aimed to show how irreversible the pope’s commitment to ecumenism is. “The objection that Pope Benedict XVI would like to return to the situation as it was before Vatican II has been spread far and wide in public opinion, whether because of ignorance, or intentionally by certain theologians who should know the truth but declare the contrary in public. This objection reflects a serious misunderstanding. If someone is not content with the information transmitted by the media—which is very selective and distorts reality—but familiarizes himself with what the pope actually says and does, the conclusion is obvious: Pope Benedict XVI does not in anyway wish to turn back, on the contrary he wants to lead our Church into the depths of what she is. It is not a matter simply of the pope enacting isolated reforms, but of allowing the foundation and heart of faith and of the Church to attain a new influence. Just as the pope, looking at the history of the Church, sees in the Franciscan reform a model of a successful reform, so today he is working with a view to a re-formatio of the Church from within so that the Church might find her authentic form, just as the Second Vatican Council already accomplished.”

Bishop Koch was received last February by Benedict XVI in the Vatican. It was on this occasion that the pope had asked him whether he was prepared to resume this task, Bishop Koch specified in his letter. The Supreme Pontiff had emphasized at the time that it was important that the post be occupied once more by someone who was acquainted with the confessions and religious communities born of the Reformation not only from the literature, but also from personal experience. Thus, noted the Bishop of Basel, the pope again showed that he cares not only about ecumenism with the Orthodox, but also about ecumenism with Protestants.

The appointment of Bishop Koch was made public July 1. The 60-year-old Swiss prelate has been Bishop of Basel since 1995, and was president of the Conference of Swiss Bishops from 2007 to 2009. Earlier in 2002 he was appointed to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and ipso facto became a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, and to the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity.  On June 30 the Conference of Swiss Bishops (CES) applauded the nomination of the Bishop of Basel: “It is now to the global scene that Bishop Kurt Koch will bring his brilliant theological skills and fine knowledge of ecumenical relations, social questions, and Church-State relations.”

The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (FEPS) also congratulated Bishop Koch. In a message released June 30 in Bern, its president, Pastor Thomas Wipf, pointed out the “great theological skill” of the Bishop of Basel and his long experience of ecumenism in Switzerland that “predestined him for this responsibility.” Then, addressing Bishop Koch, he added: “In periods of ecumenical decline, you have never ceased to demonstrate your persistent availability to dialogue and your willingness to debate on the heart of the matter.” Pastor Wipf expressed hope that in performing his new duties, Bishop Koch “will be able to make productive use of his experience and to practice ecumenism as with equals, in particular with the Reformed churches.”

In Geneva, the World Council of Churches (WCC) also paid its respects to Bishop Koch. On June 30, Pastor Olav Fykse Tveit said he was delighted to “work with him for the visible unity of the Church,” and added, “Bishop Koch is well known for his openness and profound ecumenical commitment. We see Bishop Koch as a reliable partner for all persons involved with the ecumenical movement, and we are confident that he will continue with the same emphasis on spiritual ecumenism as Cardinal Walter Kasper.”


The statement by the new official responsible for ecumenism at Rome should be noted: “Benedict XVI does not want in any way to go backwards,” in other words, to what was taught before the Second Vatican Council—in the encyclical Mortalium animos (by Pius XI), for example.  One should also remark that, according to the Swiss prelate, the pope desires a reformatio, a reform allowing the Church to “rediscover its authentic shape, as the Second Vatican Council has already effected/accomplished [réalisé(e)]”.  Reading the excerpts from the latest work by Msgr. Gherardini (see our Documents) shows that such a reformatio is more than compromised because, according to the director of the review Divinitas, this council is in conflict with Tradition on at least 9 points which are not insignificant.  In passing, one might also ask whether this reformatio, presented as “already effected/accomplished by Vatican II” still needs to be done.  And if it has already been effected/accomplished, what are its fruits? The creation of a new Pontifical Council for the evangelization of the countries which “are experiencing the progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God’” provides a significant answer to that question.

-- Further reading : From Ecumenism to Silent Apostasy, SSPX.

(Sources:  Apic/WCC/CES/Zenit – DICI no. 218 dated July 10, 2010)