Kurt Cardinal Koch

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Interview: "Nostra Aetate is in force and retains validity"

Cardinal Kurt Koch on Jewish-Christian Dialogue

[From kipa apic; unofficial translation]


Zurich, 17/08/12 (Kipa) In an interview with the Jewish weekly Tachles (August 17), the President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, the Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, spoke in detail about the state of Jewish-Christian dialogue, and the suppression of religion in the public sphere.

In the Church there are still anti-Jewish tendencies, he said. This applies not only to traditionalists, but also to liberal theologians, such as when it is claimed that the Old Testament has been replaced by the New Testament or when it is said that Judaism is a religion of law and Christianity a religion of love.

Regarding a possible restoration of unity with the SSPX [Priestly Society of St. Pius X], Koch could not say anything. "It is unequivocal from the papal side that Nostra Aetate is in force and remains valid," Koch stressed in reference to the council document describing Jews as the elder brothers of Christians, which is rejected by the SSPX.  Adding,"One can hardly call oneself a Roman Catholic if one rejects a whole council."

The oral and the written dialogue

The dialogue with Judaism has not deteriorated under Benedict XVI, Koch said in contradiction to the impression of the journalist. Since Nostra Aetate "great friendship has been achieved and the common roots of Jews and Christians are again visible. In the Jewish-Christian dialogue we await a deepening of what has been achieved, particularly about theological questions. Regarding dialogue: "Oral dialogue is of course much more important than the written," said Koch. This, however, is difficult. "You cannot talk to the whole world. "

On the question of how the readmission of the Good Friday prayer for the Jews coheres with Nostra Aetate, Koch said that the prayer is not a call to mission, but an eschatological appeal: Praying for the salvation of all at the end of time.  In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI had readmitted the pre-conciliar rite as an extraordinary form of the Mass and thus also the Good Friday prayer for the salvation of the Jews.

"How can the permanent validity of the covenant between God and Israel, and the new initiative of God through Jesus be reconciled with each other, be thought of together in a formulation in which both religions feel at home?" That is perhaps the most difficult question in the Jewish-Christian dialogue.

The affair of Richard Williamson, the bishop of the SSPX who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust, plays no ongoing role in the dialogue.

Religion as a public issue

The Cologne-based ruling that calls the ritual of boys' circumcision as it is constitutive of Judaism as assault has alarmed Koch. In European society religion is increasingly relegated to the private sphere. But religion belongs in public. "Only when the public expression of religion is recognized, not only individual but also communal religious freedom, can one speak of respect for religious freedom."  And "a multi-religious state will succeed only if religion is recognized as a public matter."  A society that wants to oust religion is not capable of dialogue.