CNA: Your Eminence, Archbishop Bruno Forte calls the "Holy Face" of Christ the "polar star of Christianity." For him, there is no rational doubt that the veil with the image is identical to Veronica's veil of Christ that John mentions next to the linen bandages in the holy tomb. Is that however not provocative for the Orthodox brothers?
Cardinal Koch: Christians believe in one God who showed his concrete face in Jesus Christ. And the closer we come to know to the Face of Christ and the deeper we become one in him, the deeper we also become one among ourselves. Therefore, it is a wonderful occasion to be before the face of Christ, to pray, to venerate the Face in order to ask for his wish to be fulfilled that we find unity.
Catholics have something to bring the Orthodox. The other way around is also true, with the Orthodox, say with their culture of venerating icons. Could it be this: that from this day on, the images could be newly comprehended and valued in the Catholic Church – in the midst of that powerful "Iconic Turn," which the media experts today observe how images in general play a role in communication like never before?
Yes, the innermost mystery of ecumenism is an exchange of gifts. Every church has their gifts. And the icons are a special gift of Orthodoxy. I believe therefore that many Christians in the west can find a new approach to the icons and so deepen their faith. That is a magnificent gift. It is very important that we in the western tradition also renew our appreciation for the image. Through the reformation in the 16th century, we set a totally new emphasis on the word. But the Word was made flesh. The Word was made visible. Therefore the images belong with faith. That is a gift of the Orthodox that we accept gratefully.
Ten years ago, Peter, in the form of Pope Benedict, came here. Since then, there has been a tremendous turn in the appreciation of this image of Manoppello. Since then, it has become world-renown. Today, the Synod of Bishops came. What meaning do you think will someday be attributed to this pilgrimage in which the Synod convened here?
It is very nice that after 10 years we were allowed to come here on this jubilee. Pope Benedict came in the name of the whole Catholic Church. Today the Church from east and west is present here. This jubilee can perhaps aid the search for unity between the Church in the east and the Church in the west.