Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Swiss Cardinal marks Pope's birthday, anniversary defending his teaching

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • April 16, 2012

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI does not want to undo the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, but he is working to ensure that "the foundation and heart of the Christian faith shines again," said Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch in a book released in time for the seventh anniversary of the pope's election.

Bishops, theologians and concerned Catholic have an obligation to help the faithful understand the theology and teaching of the pope, Cardinal Koch wrote in the book that was to be presented in Rome April 16, Pope Benedict's 85th birthday and just three days before the anniversary of his election.

"The theological and pastoral thought of Pope Benedict XVI continually is exposed to serious misunderstandings," the cardinal wrote in the preface of the Italian edition of "The Mystery of the Mustard Seed: Foundations of the Thought of Benedict XVI."

Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the two most common misunderstandings are that the Pope is concerned only about a small, active portion of the Catholic faithful, and that he wants to take the church back to the time before Vatican II.

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As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope had spoken on more than one occasion about his belief that the Catholic Church would get smaller and smaller, but that eventually the world would discover the hope and joy present in the small community of true believers and be attracted again to the Christian faith.

Cardinal Koch said, "A widespread criticism holds that the Pope is not concerned" about the church as a whole but is focused on a small portion of his flock and "is content with that."

"The only thing that is true in this criticism is that, in reality, the Pope is convinced that the true renewal of the church cannot begin with the masses, but only with small movements" inspired by the Holy Spirit and acting as leaven for the rest of the church, the cardinal said.

"Another deeper and frequently repeated criticism holds that Pope Benedict XVI has begun a march backward and wants to return to a time before Vatican II," he wrote.

"Pope Benedict absolutely does not want to turn back, but to go deeper just like the mustard seed that grows only from the depths of the earth. The individual reforms don't matter to the pope, what matters is that the foundation and the heart of the Christian faith shine forth again," which requires a return to basics about love, faith and truth, the cardinal wrote.

Invoking the Gospel parable about the miniscule mustard seed that grows into a great tree, the cardinal argues that the core of the pope's thinking and teaching rests in his conviction that great things always begin with small steps and that from the moment of creation God has chosen something seemingly small and insignificant to demonstrate his love and carry out the work of salvation.

"The mustard seed is not only a parable of Christian hope, but also demonstrates that the great is born of the small, not through revolutionary changes," but in a process that is slow, gradual and requires patience, he said.

Cardinal Koch said, "I think it is part of the responsibility of a local bishop to help the faithful find direction amid the confusion of points of view and the clang of media information, purposeful disinformation and manipulated bias" in public comments and writings about Pope Benedict.

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