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Francis: Catholics and Lutherans should ask forgiveness for past wrongs

By  on Monday, 21 October 2013

Pope Francis greets members of the Lutheran World Federation (Photo: CNS)
Pope Francis greets members of the Lutheran World Federation (Photo: CNS)

Pope Francis has urged Catholics and Lutherans to ask forgiveness for the harm they have caused one another.

Pope Francis was speaking during a meeting with representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and members of the Catholic-Lutheran international theological dialogue.

As the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation approaches, he said, “Catholics and Lutherans can ask forgiveness for the harm they have caused one another and for their offences committed in the sight of God”.

The Pope said commemorations in 2017 of the beginning of the Reformation must take place in a spirit of dialogue and humility.

“I believe that it is truly important for everyone to confront in dialogue the historical reality of the Reformation, its consequences and the responses it elicited,” the Pope told the group.

While the Reformation fractured Western Christianity, he said, for the past 50 years Catholics and Lutherans have been committed to dialogue in an effort to restore full unity.

“Together we can rejoice in the longing for unity which the Lord has awakened in our hearts, and which makes us look with hope to the future,” Pope Francis said. “Patience, dialogue and mutual understanding” will be necessary as the two communities seek to overcome what separates them.

While theological dialogue is important, he said, the key to unity lies in prayer and trying to follow more closely the teachings of Jesus.

“In the measure in which we draw closer to our Lord Jesus Christ in humility of spirit, we are certain to draw closer to one another,” he said. “We must let ourselves be taken by the hand by Jesus Christ.”

Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan of Palestine and Jordan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, told Pope Francis that Catholics and Lutherans must solemnly vow to never again use violence against one another or use the power of being a majority to silence their minority counterpart. Instead, he said, they must be committed to “listening and learning from one another”.

After the formal speeches were made, the Rev Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, presented Pope Francis with a battered teapot. He told the pope the fire-charred teapot had belonged to a Somali woman he met at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya; the camp is often described as the largest refugee camp in the world.

Although a papal aide offered to take the teapot, Pope Francis cradled it in his hands and told the Lutheran delegates that it reminded him of another form of ecumenism, “the ecumenism of martyrdom.”

Persecution, the Pope said, “does not know denominational barriers. Religious divisions do not define people fleeing conflict or migrating in order to safeguard their own lives. They are ultimately defined by what they are: children of God.”

In May, Pope Francis had spoken with the head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox community of the “ecumenism of suffering,” telling Pope Tawadros II, “Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity.”

Lutherans and Catholics gather to promote unity at Vatican meeting

Carrie Kohler

Tuesday, October 22 2013

Pope Francis received a refugee’s teapot as an invitation to work together for the suffering neighbor when he met a group from the Lutheran World Federation.PHOTO: OSSERVATORE ROMANOT

It is almost 500 years since Martin Luther was at the forefront of the Reformation that later pitted Catholics and Protestants against one another for many years.

The Pope said that confronting the historical reality of the Reformation is important as it enables Catholics and Lutherans to rejoice together “in the longing for unity which the Lord has awakened in our hearts, and which makes us look with hope to the future.”

the-rev-martin-junge

Leaders of the 70-million strong Lutheran World Federation and representatives from the Lutheran-Roman Catholic International Commission on Unity met with the Pope and Vatican officials.

They discussed joint efforts to strengthen their commitments to the poor and vulnerable around the world.

Federation members presented Pope Francis with a teapot from a Somali refugee woman at Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. There administration is run by the LWF’s diaconical arm, its Department of World Service.

“As people who have been met by Christ, we are freed and sent to meet our suffering neighbor. Let this gift therefore be an invitation to do more together for the sake of the suffering,” noted LWF general secretary, Rev. Martin Junge. Francis accepted the gift saying he will keep the gift “as a reminder of this dimension of ecumenism, the ecumenism of martyrdom,” Lutheran World Information said in a statement.

He added that persecution “does not know denominational barriers. Religious divisions do not define people fleeing conflict or migrating in order to safeguard their own lives. They are ultimately defined by what they are: children of God.”

Lutheran World Federation president, Bishop Munib A. Younan, expressed gratitude to Pope Francis during the meeting for the ecumenical milestones of the partnership with Catholics.

In a June 2013 report by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity, the partners worked together at a global level to tell the history of the Reformation as part of their commitment to deepen Christian unity.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of theological dialogue between the two partners.

The 500th anniversary of the Reformation is also quickly approaching in 2017.

The Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity has published a text, “From Conflict to Communion: The Lutheran-Catholic Interpretation of the Reformation in 2017,” Ecumenical News reported on June 18.

The document, according to Bishop Younan, “provides an opportunity to reflect on our particular history – now worded jointly by Lutherans and Roman Catholics – so we can correct our behavior and engage one another more constructively for the sake of God’s mission.”

Cardinal Kurt Koch, a Catholic representative had added, “Now we have been able to see that Martin Luther wanted a renewal of the Church and not a new Church.”

During the meeting Monday, Pope Francis stated, “Catholics and Lutherans can ask forgiveness for the harm they have done to each other and for their guilt before God, and together rejoice for the nostalgia for unity that the Lord has reawakened in our hearts, and which makes us look ahead with hope.”

The Pope continued, “Certainly, there are and there will be difficulties, which will require further patience, dialogue, and mutual comprehension, but let us not be afraid!

“Unity is not primarily the result of our efforts, but of the action of the Holy Spirit, to which we must open our hearts with trust in order that it might lead us along the paths to reconciliation and communion.”

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News

Catholics, Lutherans launch historic joint document on Reformation

Peter Kenny

Tuesday, June 18 2013

The Reformation Monument in Geneva on May 31, 2013.PHOTO: ECUMENICAL NEWS / PETER KENNY

GENEVA – Events in Christianity that led to the Reformation nearly half a millennium ago split the Roman Catholic Church, ushering the advent of Protestant churches.

When the 500th anniversary is commemorated in 2017, Lutherans and Catholics hope to be drawn closer in the quest for church unity.

Catholic and Lutherans announced a special joint publication Monday entitled From Conflict to Communion for this that helps bury many past differences and brings Catholics and Lutherans closer together.

“The awareness is dawning on Lutherans and Catholics that the struggle of the 16th century is over,” the report said. “The reasons for mutually condemning each other’s faith have fallen by the wayside.”

The document is a shared re-telling of the often troubled history of relations between Lutherans and Catholics and was launched in Geneva, sometimes called the city of Calvin with its famous Reformation Monument.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, presented the keynote address Monday on behalf of the Vatican body to the main governing body of the 75-million strong Lutheran World Federation, its council.

“The true success of the Reformation can only be achieved through the overcoming of our inherited divisions in a renewed Church consisting of all Christians, and that consequently our ecumenical efforts aimed at recovering unity are actually a completion of the work of the Reformation itself,” Koch said.

Lutheran World Federation General Secretary, Rev. Martin Junge and Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, with the shared Catholic-Lutheran publication on the Reformaton, From Conflict to Communion in Geneva on June 17, 2013.PHOTO: ECUMENICAL NEWS / PETER KENNY

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Koch advised both Lutherans and Catholics to be realistic about their expectations from each other.

“We, for example, cannot impose papacy on you; and I can expect from you not to push us to Eucharistic hospitality [shared holy communion] and church community as these are constitutive questions for the theological basis of our faith.”

Catholics are not allowed to share the Eucharist at Lutheran services nor do Catholics permit Lutherans to take part in holy communion, a key ritual in Christian worship, at Catholic services.

Koch told journalists Catholic and Lutheran perspectives of one another naturally differed.

“Now we have been able to see that Martin Luther wanted a renewal of the Church and not a new Church,” the Catholic representative said.

LWF President Bishop Munib A. Younan noted in a speech, “It is my sense that this document can be an important tool in improving relationships and, more importantly, common witness, in all contexts.”

He said, “We seek unity, not because it simply is a good idea, but because it is the desire of Jesus, grounded in his commandment of love.”

The event that is considered to have triggered the Reformation was the writing in 1517 by Martin Luther of the document known as “The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.”

95 THESES

The Ninety-Five Theses, as it is now known protested against clerical abuses in the Church of Rome, especially the sale of indulgences which were considered to speed up the process by which Christians who had sinned could get to heaven.

The Protestant Reformation creating the schism within Western Christianity was also led by John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, John Calvin, John Knox and other early Protestants.

International and civil wars were fought in the centuries that followed between Catholic and Protestant European nations, often on the pretext of faith.

Younan observed, “Through the centuries, we have engaged in violent conflict with one another. More often, however, we have failed to abide by the Eighth Commandment [Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour] and have borne false witness about one another.

“Now, as we approach the 500th anniversary of the moment that sparked the Reformation, ‘From Conflict to Communion’ provides an opportunity to reflect on our particular history – now worded jointly by Lutherans and Roman Catholics – so we can correct our behavior and engage one another more constructively for the sake of God’s mission.”

REFORMATION 2017

The Lutheran World Federation wishes to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 as a global communion.

“Above all, the document seeks to address difficult points in the history of Lutheran-Roman Catholic relations so we can deepen our relationships globally and get on with the work of jointly participating in God’s mission for the sake of the world.”

In his address, Koch said that the decision by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity to follow up its dialogue on baptism was much to be welcomed, as it represents an important new step on the path of deepening understanding between Lutherans and Catholics.

He also proposed that this would open a possibility for the preparation of a future joint declaration on church, Eucharist and ministry.

The Lutheran-Roman Catholic Joint Commission made up of people approved by the Vatican and the LWF offers five “ecumenical imperatives” intended to help Catholics and Lutherans into their new era of dialogue.

The first imperative is: “Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.”

Bishop Emeritus Eero Huovinen, from Finland, who serves as co-chair of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity, urged both Lutherans and Catholics to concentrate on how much they have in common in the theological issues that were central to both Luther and the Catholic faith.

“None of us can alone decide how to build unity. We have other sisters and brothers on the same road. We need profound and sound theological work,” said Huovinen.