Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Catholic Church's Council for Promoting Christian Unity, sent a message on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI to the new Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the Anglican Communion, the Right Reverend Justin Welby. Cardinal Koch expressed "congratulations and warmest best wishes."
Cardinal Koch, a Swiss native, wrote "Relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion are a hugely important part of the ecumenical call for all Christians to seek greater fidelity to the Lord’s will, so clearly expressed in his prayer to the Father at the Last Supper 'that all may be one'. For almost fifty years, as you are well aware, there has been a formal theological dialogue which continues to seek a deeper understanding of the great heritage shared by Anglicans and Catholics, as well as the points of divergence which still impede fully restored ecclesial communion. During that same time, relations between succeeding Popes and Archbishops of Canterbury have been marked by numerous meetings which have expressed intense spiritual and human friendship, and a shared concern for our Gospel witness and service to the human family."
Cardinal Koch has expressed in the past his commitment to good relations with Christian communions other than his own. In 2010, the cardinal spoke of the Pope's "irreversible" commitment to ecumenism while averring that neither he, nor the pontiff, wish to return to a time before the Second Vatican Council.
Writing to the incoming leader of the Anglican Communion, Cardinal Koch said "I am certain that under your leadership those excellent relations will continue to bear fruit, and I look forward to meeting you personally, and to future opportunities to share our common commitment to the cause of Christian Unity, 'so that the world may believe'.
"Please accept the assurance of my earnest prayers for you and your family as you prepare for a new phase in your dedicated service of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ". Bishop Welby has written in the past about how the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, as refracted by Vatican II, influenced his thinking as a minister of the Anglican Church.
In 2010, Cardinal Koch wrote as he became head of the Vatican's office on ecumenism, “The objection that Pope Benedict XVI would like to return to the situation as it was before Vatican II has been spread far and wide in public opinion, whether because of ignorance, or intentionally by certain theologians who should know the truth but declare the contrary in public. This objection reflects a serious misunderstanding. If someone is not content with the information transmitted by the media—which is very selective and distorts reality—but familiarizes himself with what the pope actually says and does, the conclusion is obvious: Pope Benedict XVI does not in anyway wish to turn back, on the contrary he wants to lead our Church into the depths of what she is. It is not a matter simply of the pope enacting isolated reforms, but of allowing the foundation and heart of faith and of the Church to attain a new influence. Just as the pope, looking at the history of the Church, sees in the Franciscan reform a model of a successful reform, so today he is working with a view to a re-formatio of the Church from within so that the Church might find her authentic form, just as the Second Vatican Council already accomplished.”
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