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Kurt Cardinal Koch is the new Vatican head of ecumenical relations, responsible among other things for relations with the Jews. The Swiss cleric replaces Walter Cardinal Kasper, whom I praised for his frankness and sincerity on this site earlier this year.

The acid test issue for Jewish-Christian relations, in my view, is the Election of Israel. And in an October 29 issue with the German newspaper Die Welt, Cardinal Koch had this to say (I translate)

DIE WELT: Now St. Paul was a Jew and was quite close to the synagogue.

Koch: That’s right. Everywhere he went on his journeys, he made the synagogue his first stop and preached to the Jews, and only afterwards did he go to the pagans. In his Letters to the Romans he later described why the Gospel went its own way. He understood the deeper meaning of the rejection of the Gospel by the majority of Jews, so that thereby the message of Jesus would then be brought to the entire world. It is a great mystery that Israel remains the chosen people even though it rejects the Messiah. That is the great question that occupies him.

It is a great mystery. As I wrote in an essay entitled “Zionism for Christians” in 2008,

Ultimately, Jews and Christians must remain a mystery to each other. Christians cannot help but recognize that Providence has sustained the Jews through their long exile, yet they cannot explain why Jews do not recognize Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of their prophecy. Jews cannot help but recognize that Christians are inspired by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet they cannot explain Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus, except to dismiss it as a “world-historical fiction” (in Franz Rosenzweig’s words).

This is a place for Cardinal Koch to start. I look forward to hearing more from him.



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