March 17-19, 2000
volume 11, no. 55
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Interview with Evangelical Leader Manfred Kock

    BERLIN, MAR 15 (ZENIT-AVVENIRE).- "Words worthy of the greatest respect and gratitude," was the reaction of the German Evangelical Church (EKD) to John Paul II's "mea culpa" last Sunday. The EKD represents 28 million German Protestants and, at the international level, is one of the most important manifestations of the Reformation. Rev. Manfred Kock, its leader, had a substantially positive reaction to the act.

ZENIT-AVVENIRE: Reverend Kock, this is the first time a Pope had pronounced such a broad admission of guilt. What is your first impression?

Manfred Kock: The Roman Catholic Church and John Paul II deserve gratitude and respect for the way in which they have addressed the faults of the past. The gesture is important because, up until now, many of us had the impression that the Catholic Church had problems recognizing its past errors.

Z-A: John Paul II explicitly mentions the "sins against the unity of the body of Christ." Do you think the Pope's words make the unity among Christians easier?

Manfred Kock: Certainly, without a doubt it can be said that unity can be favored by his words. But in order to make rapid progress, from our point of view it will also be necessary that the Pope' words have concrete effects on the affirmations pronounced by the Catholic Church over the centuries in relation to us, and that, in our view, do not help on the road to unity.

Z-A: In recent statements you stated that the German Evangelical Church might recognize the Pope in the future as "a unitary figure symbolic of Christianity." Do you see this recognition as being closer?

Manfred Kock: In order to take this step, time must go by. The differences that affect the respective ecclesial conceptions and the differences over the Pope's infallibility, differences that I already mentioned at the time, have not been overcome yet.

Z-A: The impression is given, however, that the "mea culpa" pronounced by the Pope not only affects Catholics, but the whole of Christianity. In this connection, John Paul II would already have carried out on this occasion the function of "symbolic unitary figure." What is your opinion?

Manfred Kock: I think that above all the Pope spoke for Catholics In any event, it is true that, until the advent of the Reformation, we had a common history. Because of this, at least up until that time, the Protestant Churches are also involved in the admission of fault made by John Paul II. However, I do not believe that one can see in this a first action of the Pontiff as symbolic unitary figure.

Z-A: Do you think the Protestant Church will pronounce a similar admission of faults?

Manfred Kock: In past decades, the German Protestant Church already acknowledged its own fault with reference to particular historical events: the errors of Protestant Christians in relation to racism; its relation with Jews; and past faults with Czechs and Poles. Once this is clarified, we must acknowledge that these admissions are not, in fact, the end of our examination of the past. ZE00031503


March 17-19, 2000
volume 11, no. 55

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