Your Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch (born 15 March 1950) is a Swiss cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, currently serving as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity since his appointment was announced on 1 July 2010. He is also the bishop emeritus of Basel having served from 1995 until he resigned the see in 2010.
Koch was born in Emmenbrücke in the canton of Lucerne. He studied theology at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich and at the University of Lucerne, graduating in 1975 with a Doctor of Theology degree. He was ordained to the priesthood on 20 June 1982.
On 21 August 1995, Koch was elected Bishop of Basel; his election was confirmed by Pope John Paul II on the following 6 December. He received episcopal consecration on 6 January 1997 from John Paul II himself, with Archbishops Giovanni Battista Re and Jorge María Mejía serving as co-consecrators.
When a group of Swiss intellectuals and theologians called for John Paul's resignation on 20 May 2004, Koch described the act as "disgusting and disloyal" as it was, moreover, the Pope's eighty-fourth birthday. In 2006, in an interview for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung he supported Muslim's freedom to build minarets in Switzerland, but also asked for greater religious freedom for Christians in Muslim countries.
On 27 June 2007, Koch, along with several other Catholic prelates, attended a briefing from the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, at the Apostolic Palace on Pope Benedict XVI's impending motu proprio allowing wider celebration of the Tridentine Mass.
In July 2007, Koch defended the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's document clarifying the expression of subsistit in in Lumen gentium, while he acknowledged that the document could appear confusing or hurtful to Protestants; and he observed that the document and its reception showed the difference between the ecumenical goals of Catholics and the Orthodox on the one hand and that of Protestants on the other.
Koch was President of the Swiss Episcopal Conference from 2007 until 2010. He is a member of the Swiss Council of Religions.
Pope Benedict XVI announced the appointment of Koch as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on 1 July 2010, taking over from Cardinal Walter Kasper, who stepped down having reached the age limit. Koch was at the same time promoted to archbishop. He recounted: "The Holy Father told me in February, in a personal audience, his desire that I would begin to lead this council. It is a great joy for me because ecumenism has always been in my heart since in my country, Switzerland, Protestants are very close to us and I have also had a particular interest in the Orthodox Churches."
On 16 October 2010, Pope Benedict appointed Koch as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a five-year renewable term.
On 20 October 2010, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Koch would be among the list of new cardinals to be created in a consistory on 20 November. He was duly created and proclaimed Cardinal-Deacon of Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore on 20 November 2010. On 29 December 2010, Koch was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Koch headed the Vatican's delegation to Istanbul, Turkey to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Patriarch Bartholomew I, for the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle on 30 November 2010 (the Patriarchate sends a delegation each year in turn for the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul on 29 June). He co-presided over a meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in Vienna, Austria in September 2010 with Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon.
On 4 May 2011 Pope Benedict appointed Koch a member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The five-year term will be renewed until his 80th birthday.
In his role as president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Koch spoke to reporters on 16 May 2011, after delivering a speech on Catholic-Jewish relations in light of Vatican II's declaration Nostra aetate on the church's relations with non-Christian religions. The speech followed Koch's participation in a meeting of the doctrinal congregation to examine the latest progress in the Vatican's reconciliation talks with the traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X. "There are questions to clarify in discussions with this community. I can't say more than that", he told reporters, echoing a Vatican statement saying the reconciliation talks are ongoing. Koch noted that "All the doctrinal decisions of the church are binding on a Catholic, including the Second Vatican Council and all its texts", Koch said when asked if the SSPX would be expected to accept all the teachings of Vatican II. "The Nostra aetate declaration of the Second Vatican Council is a clear decree and is important for every Catholic", he added.
16 May 2012, Koch gave the Pope John Paul II Lecture on Interreligious Understanding at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). Koch spoke on the theme of "Building on Nostra aetate: 50 Years of Christian-Jewish Dialogue".
On 30 October 2012, Koch stated in an interview that, if Lutherans express a wish for an arrangement similar to the personal ordinariates for former Anglicans, the Catholic Church will have to reflect on it, but that the initiative must come from Lutherans.
He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2013 papal conclave that elected Pope Francis.
On Saturday, 30 November 2013, Pope Francis named Cardinal Koch a Member of the Congregation for Catholic Education. He was appointed a member of the Congregation for Bishops.
Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics
Cardinal Koch has been a strong opponent of allowing divorced and remarried Catholics receiving communion. In an interview with the German newspaper Die Tagespost, Koch compared Church leaders who wanted to change the Church's teaching on this issue to German Catholics who tried to adapt their faith to make it compatible with Nazism.