Features Features > Difficult dialogue

26 May 2016 | by James Roberts

Difficult dialogue Premium

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The Vatican’s man promoting Christian unity talks to James Roberts about the challenge of Muslim relations

Before going to Cambridge to meet Cardinal Kurt Koch – the man with the Christian unity brief at the Vatican – I was hoping that a few sparks would fly across the Fens, as we touched on some of the hottest topics in the Church.

This was the man who, speaking in Germany last November, six days after the Islamist attacks in Paris claimed 130 lives, described the so-called Islamic State as a “satanic terrorist organisation”. Earlier in 2015, before the Synod on the Family, amid calls for church reforms that took account of the realities of contemporary life, he recalled that at the time of the Third Reich, some “German Christians” adjusted their faith to the “reality” of a passing world view: National Socialism. There can be no “third realities” of the Revelation next to Holy Scripture and the magisterium, he said.

Given that the cardinal has expressed such strong opinions about events in Europe and comes from the centre of the continent – he was born in Emmen, in the Swiss canton of Lucerne, 66 years ago – I wondered what he thought about Pope Francis’ critique. The Argentinian pope has said that Europe is not creative, not welcoming to immigrants and like an old grandmother. Some other cardinals – Dominik Duka from the Czech Republic, for example – have said he simply doesn’t understand Europe.

“[Francis] is aware not only of the difficulties in Europe but also the opportunities,” said Koch. “But yes, it is another view. Pope Benedict is European and has thought a great deal about European issues. Pope Francis is from another continent, and sees the situation in Europe with other eyes. It’s a challenge for us, to see our own continent with other eyes.”


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