A “Laboratory of Ecumenism”: Cardinal Koch Visits Ukraine | Michael J. Miller | CWR
Ecumenical trip marked by candor and optimism
The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, visited Ukraine from June 5 to 12, 2013. Upon his arrival the curial official was welcomed at Borispol Airport by the primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), and by Archbishop Thomas Edward Gullickson, apostolic nuncio for Ukraine. Since it was the first journey of the honored guest to Ukraine, his chief purpose was to meet with the Greek, Latin, and Armenian Catholic communities and their respective leaders in a country that Bl. John Paul II had called “a laboratory of ecumenism” during his pastoral visit in June 2001. Cardinal Koch spent two days in Kyiv, the capital, then traveled on Saturday to Lviv in Galicia (Western Ukraine), a Catholic stronghold, and finally on Monday to Uzhorod and Mukachevo, near the border with Slovakia and Hungary.
Cardinal Koch is also the co-chairman of the Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox Churches. In that capacity he held talks, during his visit, with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church leader, Metropolitan Volodymyr, of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP), and other representatives of that Church. He also learned about the inter-confessional fellowship that takes place within the framework of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, and about the work of Institute of Ecumenical Studies at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv.
Past documents of the official Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical dialogue have typically ignored or papered over crucial differences in how the two sides understand Church and authority. The keynote of Cardinal Koch’s visit, however, was a refreshing candor on the part of the Catholic speakers. On June 10, in a lecture at Ukrainian Catholic University, he explained that: