Card. Koch sends message to Receptive Ecumenism Conference

2014-06-11 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, has sent a message to the third International Receptive Ecumenism Conference underway at Fairfield University in Connecticut, U.S.A., this week:


On the occasion of the third international Receptive Ecumenism Conference, I send warm greetings to the distinguished organisers and participants, thanking you all for your generous commitment to the essential cause of Christian Unity.

Recently I accompanied Pope Francis on his visit to the Holy Land where he met with Patriarch Bartholomew to commemorate the historic meeting of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras fifty years ago. Those fifty years have seen both a dialogue of truth and a dialogue of love which have borne much fruit. In ecumenical relations in all parts of the world Receptive Ecumenism is seeking to provide a road map for further progress along this path, helping us to understand how to take these two dialogues forward in the coming years.

Cardinal John Henry Newman preached a number of sermons on sympathy. He was convinced that Christians were much more alike one another, even in their weaknesses than they often imagined. In one particularly striking passage he says this:

Perhaps the reason why the standard of holiness among us is so low, why our attainments are so poor, our view of the truth so dim, our belief so unreal, our general notions so artificial and external is this, that we dare not trust each other with the secret of our hearts. We have each the same secret, and yet we keep it to ourselves, and we fear that as a cause of estrangement, which really would be a bond of union. We do not probe the wounds of our nature thoroughly; we do not lay the foundation of our religious profession in the ground of our inner man; we make clean the outside of things; we are amiable and friendly to each other in word and deeds, but our love is not enlarged, our bowels of affection are straitened, and we fear to let intercourse begin at the root; and in consequence, our religion viewed as a social system, is hollow.

We can understand Newman’s words to be true, not only of individual Christians, but of Communions. The “standard of our holiness” is lessened, “our view of the truth” is inhibited, because we “fear that as a cause of estrangement, which really would be a bond of union”.

Receptive Ecumenism proposes that, in a dialogue of truth, we are honest about our weaknesses and allow them to become “a bond of union”. We face so many common problems in our ecclesial life today, and yet in our dialogues we are too content with “the outside of things”, to be “amiable and friendly to each other in word and deeds”. But the dialogue that begins at the root of things, with the real challenges and woundedness of our ecclesial life, is one in which our relationships grow and deepen. It is truly a dialogue of love.

Whilst I regret that I cannot be with you for this important conference, please be assured of my prayers for the its success and my gratitude for your endeavours.

Kurt, Cardinal Koch.



(From archive of Vatican Radio)