Koch: SSPX's return is not a done deal10 June 2012
The Vatican's top ecumenist has stressed that only when discussions between the traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX) and the Vatican are completed will any decision be made on their future relationship and that this will be decided by Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, made his comment to The Tablet following his address to the International Theology Symposium in St Patrick's College Maynooth on Friday where he gave a talk entitled ‘The Relation between the Eucharist and Ecclesial Communion: An Ecumenical View'.
Asked about comments made by Bishop Bernard Fellay of the SSPX, who said recent reconciliation talks with the Vatican demonstrated that "Rome no longer makes total acceptance" of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council a condition for the breakaway group's full reconciliation with the Church, Cardinal Koch underlined that he would not comment because the talks were still ongoing.
"The discussion with this community of Pius X is current. During these discussions I will not speak about them. At the end of the discussions, the Holy Father will decide," he said.
Bishop Fellay submitted a second response to the Vatican's doctrinal preamble in April and the Holy See is still studying it.
Cardinal Koch also acknowledged that the ecumenical dialogue with the Anglican Church was "very important" and that the Vatican would seek to "deepen this dialogue". He further suggested that one of the important challenges facing those involved in dialogue between Churches was to find a new consensus on an ecumenical goal.
However, he also regretted the fact that some Protestant Churches were willing to invite all, even those who may not be baptised, to the Lord's supper.
"I think that is a very dangerous development because baptism and ritual recognition of baptism is the basis of all ecumenical endeavours," he warned and added "baptism is fundamental for participation in the Eucharist".
This, he said, also meant that because Catholics were not willing to give the Eucharist to those who are not baptised, "many people have the impression that the Protestants are honest and the Catholics are not honest" in their commitment to ecumenism.
The Cardinal told conference delegates that it was important to understand why Catholics placed the emphasis on seeking the restoration of ecclesial communion in the first instance and not on "so-called intercommunion".
This, he said, was because as German Cardinal Karl Lehmann had pointed out, the shared supper belonged "at the end and not at the beginning of ecumenical endeavours".
He called for a deepening of Eucharistic faith through catechesis and preaching, and said there were many Catholics who did not understand the Eucharist. He added that this was the underlying reason for a poll result such as the recent Irish Times/MRBI survey of Catholic attitudes and practice in Ireland which found that just 26 per cent of Catholics believe in transubstantiation.
Speaking to reporters after his address, he explained that the understanding of the relationship between ecclesial and Eucharistic communion is very different in the diverse Churches. "It is very important to clarify the position of the Catholic Church and the position of the other Churches and deepen the discussion on this for the future."
Cardinal Koch is currently visiting the UK and is due to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and give an address at Canterbury Cathedral during his stay.
The Cardinal's address in Maynooth was followed by an address titled ‘Ut Unum Simus: What I Learnt from Jean-Marie Tillard' by Anglican scholar, Rev Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, who is a former canon theologian of Westminster Abbey and a member of the Anglican-Catholic dialogue commissions ARCIC II and III.
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