Zenit has an interview with Archbishop Kurt Koch, the new head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In it the archbishop (he was given that personal title upon his appointment – a cardinal’s hat is virtually assured at some later date) talks about why he was appointed and how he sees the future of ecumenism by the Church.
One answer from the interview sums up the differences in ecumenism with the Orthodox and ‘western’ Protestants. Here in western Europe, we’re used to only think of the churches of the Reformation when we consider ecumenism, but on a worldwide scale, the Orthodox churches are far closer partners.
Archbishop Koch: “The churches and ecclesial communities born of the Reformation in Switzerland are a special case in the world of the reformed churches. With the Orthodox, we have a common foundation of faith, but great cultural diversity. Instead, with the churches of the Reformation, the foundation of faith is not so common, but we have the same culture. Because of this, with them, it is a different way of engaging in ecumenism that is not always easy.”
Those two elements – faith and culture – can be tricky. It often seems as if it should not be a such a problem for Protestants and Catholics to grow closer, and that is true when looked at from the cultural point of view. But of course, ecumenism is about faith, first and foremost. It is the less visible but more important element of the two.