Yesterday I got to experience something unique. Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at the Vatican, came for a visit to the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki. The topic of Cardinal Koch’s presentation was “The Ecumenical Recognition of Baptism”. Prof. Anneli Aejmelaeus and Prof. Risto Saarinen gave responses.
Let me set the stage a little, tiny bit. Finland is not a Catholic country – it is very Lutheran – of the approximate 5 million citizens of the country, about 9,000 people are Catholic. Let that sink in for a minute. In comparison, there are about 4 million people who claim membership to the Lutheran church.
There’s a long history here that I don’t have time to go into on how this came to be. Let’s just say that what you link church and state, you end up with large majorities of people in one church.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand, the Cardinal gave a nice presentation on the ecumenical efforts to recognize baptism between denominations. I didn’t hear much disagreement from anyone, which isn’t surprising.
The Cardinal turned his attention to the Eucharist and the differences between the churches and why there cannot be Eucharistic hospitality. There were several questions about this and I thought the best answer that the Cardinal gave that highlights the differences went something like this – He would be happy to give Eucharist to a non-Catholic if they could, in their heart and with a clear conscious, accept the words at the end of the Catholic Eucharistic Prayer that claims loyalty to the local (Catholic) bishop and to the supremacy of the Pope in Rome.
This highlights the difference in views about Eucharist perfectly actually. I was left with a few questions – When did that part of the Eucharistic prayer start? What about the time before this prayer started or before the idea of the supremacy of the pope came about? Jesus doesn’t mention anything about ecclesiastical concerns during the last supper narrative – when was this added to the Eucharistic prayer and why?
Overall, it was a great to sit and listen and think about where things are in the church – where there is unity and where there is still division.