|Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, speaks in Seoul on Tuesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)|
In the Protestant church alone, there are more than 345 denominations and no one knows the exact amount of religions on Earth. People with different beliefs have been indifferent or in conflict over religion for a long time, yet very little effort has been made to seek a solution.
Amid global tension over religion, the Catholic Church has been taking steps towards reconciliation, seeking “deepened dialogue among different ideas.” Since the Second Vatican Council from 1962 till 1965, which addressed relations between Roman Catholics and the modern era, the Catholic Church has been reaching out to different churches both within Christianity and other religions.
“Goals for dialogue within Christian churches and those with different religions are different. The goal of inter-religious talks is to find peace in society and justice. The goal of the ecumenical dialogue is to find unity,” said Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at a press briefing with the Korean press on Tuesday.
Cardinal Koch in 2010 was appointed to head the council that holds a variety of talks and dialogues among churches including the Orthodox denominations, Protestant churches and Jewish synagogues. He is in Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the World Council of Church’s 10th assembly held on Wednesday in Busan.
Dubbed the “Olympics of religion” for representing more than 345 Protestant churches while also gathering leaders of different religions such as Islam, Catholicism and others, the congress is expected to thaw the ice among various religions. Cardinal Koch, who arrived in Seoul on Monday, met with the leaders of Anglican, Lutheran, Orthodox, Methodist and other churches, discussing issues that Christians face and goals for unity.
It is not only religious circles that need reconciliation, according to Cardinal Koch. The long-standing rift among different churches and alleged irregularities have been driving people away from church and Korea is no exception.
“I have been in Korea for only two days and I cannot tell you the solution. But what Pope Francis says is that our church is not an NGO. Church should start with communion, loving each other and that will eventually flow back to the society and have good influence on it. That is the fundamental role of the Church,” he said.
Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea Committee for Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue, who accompanied Cardinal Koch to Busan, added, “It is a very difficult issue. There is a saying, ‘Something that does not progress will regress.’ In order to progress we should always remember the fundamental spirit of Christianity and try to keep its value and virtue contemporary. When our stomach is full our spirit will go hungry. It is a grave question: How can we stay holy?”
Cardinal Koch found the answer in prayer and going back to the basics.
“Since WCC is about dialogue among Christian churches, it also prioritizes the unity among Christianity. Seeking unity, I believe, will contribute to society and hopefully reconciliation between the two Koreas, too. WCC’s generous invitation to the Catholic Church is a good start,” he said.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org)