Pope to Lutherans: "Let us overcome reticence to achieve greater unity"

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Pope to Lutherans: "Let us overcome reticence to achieve greater unity"

By Iacopo Scaramuzzi

Pope Francis on Monday January 18 received an ecumenical delegation from the Lutheran Church of Finland, as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins. The Week of Prayer will end Monday with an ecumenical celebration in St. Paul Outside-the-Walls presided over by the Pope.

“In our dialogue, differences still remain in doctrine and in practice.” This must “spur our journey towards ever greater unity, not least by working to overcome old ideas and suspicions,” Pope Francis said in his speech to an ecumenical delegation of the Lutheran Church of Finland, at the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (from today to next Monday).

“In a special way, we can thank the Lord for the fruits of the dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics. Here I think in particular of the common document on Justification in the Life of the Church,” the Pope said, referring to the joint declaration on the doctrine of justification signed in August, Germany, on 31 October 1999. Building on these foundations, your dialogue is making promising progress towards a shared understanding, on the sacramental level, of Church, Eucharist and Ministry. These steps forward, made together, lay a solid basis for a growing communion of life in faith and spirituality, as your relations develop in a spirit of serene discussion and fraternal sharing. The common calling of all Christians is brought out well by the biblical text for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today: ‘You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’. In our dialogue, differences still remain in doctrine and in practice. This must not discourage us, but instead spur us along our journey towards ever greater unity, not least,” the Pope stressed, “by working to overcome old ideas and suspicions. In a world frequently torn by conflict and marked by secularism and indifference, we are called to join in professing our faith in Jesus Christ, and thus to become ever more credible witnesses of unity and promoters of peace and reconciliation. Dear brothers and sisters, I am also appreciative of your shared commitment to the care of creation, and I thank you for the symbolic sign of hospitality, which you have offered me in the name of Finnish people. In the hope that this visit will strengthen ever greater cooperation between your respective communities, I invoke upon all of you God’s abundant graces and I cordially offer you my blessing.”

During his visit to Rome’s Lutheran community last December, Jorge Mario Bergoglio made a significant remark about inter-communion in a speech delivered off the cuff. Today’s speech began with a word of thanks addressed to the Lutheran bishop of Helsinki, Irja Asola, who heads the delegation. The Pope emphasised that the annual ecumenical pilgrimage to Rome for the Feast of St. Henrik, the country’s patron saint, “is an eloquent sign of the fact that, as Lutherans, Orthodox and Catholics, you have recognized what unites you and together you wish to bear witness to Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of unity”.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the theme “Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of the Lord” (cf. 1 Peter 2:9), begins today. This year’s proposed texts were prepared by Lithuania. “The ‘Reformation’ has not only led to the rediscovery of the Bible and the ‘Doctrine of Justification’, for example, but has also led to separation and sparked horrific religious wars in the 16th and 17th century,” Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity told Vatican Radio. Recently, Pope Francis said: “If we look at the bloody battles between Sunnis and Shiites, we must remember that Lutherans and Catholics did the very same thing.” As such, we need to ask for forgiveness. But this is just one aspect. We are not just celebrating the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, we are also celebrating 50 years of ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans: we must be grateful and appreciative of the fact that over the past half century we have rediscovered many things that we have in common. The third aspect is hope. Hope that this common celebration of the commemoration of the Reform will help us to find new trust in the future.”

On Monday January 25, like every year, the Pope will conclude the ecumenical week with a celebration in St. Paul Outside-the-Walls.

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 14:44
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