Francis takes different ecumenicism track from Benedict XVI

Pope Francis’s approach to ecumenism is setting him apart from his predecessors, says the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Cardinal Kurt Koch told a German Catholic website that Francis lays more emphasis than Benedict XVI did on strengthening ecumenical relationships through joint prayer, activities and encounters.

The reason for this is the Francis’s “realistic view that theological dialogue alone will not get us any further”, the cardinal said, according to a report in The Tablet.

Friendly relationships were an essential condition for even beginning to discuss difficult theological questions, Cardinal Koch said.

The Pope wanted an evangelising Church that would take the Gospel message out into the world and he “wants us [Christians] to do everything together that we can do together”.

Asked if ecumenism had the same high priority for Pope Francis as it had had for his predecessors, Cardinal Koch replied, “Ecumenism has the highest priority for Pope Francis as it has had for all popes since the [Second Vatican] Council.

“Perhaps Pope Francis approaches it with a slightly different emphasis.

“He continually underlines that we cannot wait until we are one [Church].

“We must work together now; we must walk along the same path, bear the same witness and pray together.

“Sisterliness and friendship between the different Christian Churches and church communities as well as bearing witness are very high priorities for Pope Francis.”

Cardinal Koch said that an important development appears to be the improving climate for dialogue with Pentecostal churches.

“There were those among the Pentecostals and Evangelicals who were pretty prejudiced against the Catholic Church and the papacy,” he recalled.

“If these groups meet the Pope personally, and see that he is a good Christian, that can overcome many prejudices and open doors for new dialogue.”

This is particularly important as Pentecostalism has become the “second-largest reality in Christianity after the Catholic Church” Cardinal Koch said.


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