As Christians mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on 18-25 January, Cardinal Kurt Koch recalled the importance of doing good and promoting justice.
The theme for this year’s occurrence of the Week of Prayer is “Do good; seek justice”. It was selected by the Minnesota Council of Churches, in the United States, and was taken from the first chapter of the Book of Isaiah.
Walk, pray, work together
Reflecting on the theme in an interview with Vatican News’ Mario Galgano, Cardinal Koch noted that good works and justice are indeed closely related.
“The foundation of all ecumenism is prayer for unity. We can do no better thing than to pray for unity, because people alone cannot effect unity.”
The Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity recalled Pope Francis’ repeated invitation for Christians to “walk together, pray together, and work together”.
These three elements, said Cardinal Koch, can help Christians rediscover justice among ourselves and Church communities.
He also pointed out that unity is “always a gift of the Holy Spirit, and prayer offers us the best preparation for receiving this gift.”
Peace built on dialogue
However, added Cardinal Koch, human beings excel at promoting division, as the war in Ukraine shows.
The 72-year-old Swiss-born Cardinal lamented that “Christians are killing other Christians and Orthodox are killing other Orthodox.”
Religion, he said, must therefore be part of the solution by opening a door for dialogue.
“Dialogue is the only way to find peace, but the foundation of peace is justice.”
Cardinal Koch recalled that another passage from the prophet Isaiah notes that “Peace is the fruit of justice.”
Pope Benedict’s ecumenical legacy
Recalling Pope Benedict XVI, who died on 31 December 2022, Cardinal Koch said the late Pope worked diligently to promote unity among Christians, both with Orthodox and Protestant Christians.
He recalled the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which was signed in Habsburg in 1999, to which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger contributed greatly.
“His concept of ecumenism was that unity is not an ecclesial-political concept, but rather a concept of faith. The foundation of ecumenism is the faith that every member of the body of Christ receives at Baptism.”
Cardinal Koch concluded by noting that Pope Benedict’s vision of ecumenism was essentially centered on Christ.
“We can find unity again in faith in Jesus Christ,” he said.