calendar October 31, 2016 in Faith in action

Catholics and Lutherans Commemorate Reformation

Pope Francis and the General Secretary of The Lutheran World Federation Rev. Dr Martin Junge jointly preached on the gospel of the true vine (John 15:1-5) during the Common Prayer of the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation in Lund, Sweden, today (Oct. 31, 2016). They spoke about the unity in Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have together and the opportunities for joint witness in a world that needs the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ in words and actions.


Lund Commemoration Leaders

Kurt Cardinal Koch (President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity), Bishop Munib Younan (President of the Lutheran World Federation), Pope Francis, Reverend Dr Martin Junge (General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation) lead the joint commemoration in Lund Cathedral. Photo: Church of Sweden/Magnus Aronson

“Now in the context of the commemoration of the Reformation of 1517, we have a new opportunity to accept a common path, one that has taken shape over the past fifty years in the ecumenical dialogue between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church,” Pope Francis stated in his sermon, adding: “We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.”

“As we see Jesus among us, we have also started to see each other anew. We acknowledge that there is much more that unites us than that which separates us. We are branches of the same vine. We are one in Baptism. This is why we are here at this joint commemoration: to rediscover who we are in Christ,” said General Secretary Junge in his sermon, calling upon Catholics and Lutherans “to move away from a past overshadowed by conflict and division and to walk the paths of communion.”

Today’s historic event—the first Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation at the global level—was witnessed by 450 ecumenical guests in Lund Cathedral, Sweden, as well as the 10,000 visitors in Malmö Arena and television viewers worldwide. Pope Francis co-hosted the event with LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Junge. The Common Prayer in Lund Cathedral focused on thanksgiving, repentance and a commitment to joint witness.

WATCH the Common Prayer service
(service starts at 28:30 in this video)

“We Christians will be credible witnesses of mercy to the extent that forgiveness, renewal and reconciliation are daily experienced in our midst,” Pope Francis said. “Together we can proclaim and manifest God’s mercy, concretely and joyfully, by upholding and promoting the dignity of every person. Without this service to the world and in the world, Christian faith is incomplete.”

“The spiritual experience of Martin Luther challenges us to remember that apart from God we can do nothing,” the Pope said. “In effect, the question of a just relationship with God is the decisive question for our lives. As we know, Luther encountered that propitious God in the Good News of Jesus, incarnate, dead and risen. With the concept “by grace alone”, he reminds us that God always takes the initiative, prior to any human response, even as he seeks to awaken that response. The doctrine of justification thus expresses the essence of human existence before God.”

“Aware of all those centrifugal forces that always risk separating us, I would like to call us to rely trustfully on the centripetal force of Baptism,” General Secretary Junge said. “The liberating grace of baptism is a divine gift that calls us together and unites us! Baptism is the prophetic announcement of healing and unity in the midst of our wounded world, and thus becomes a gift of hope for humanity that longs to live in peace with justice and in reconciled diversity.”

“May God find us building bridges so that we can come closer to each other, houses where we can meet together, and tables – yes, tables – where we can share bread and wine, the presence of Christ, who has never left us and who calls us to abide in him so that the world may believe,” Junge concluded.

During the church service a Joint Statement was signed which embraces communion as the common future of Lutherans and Catholics. A colorful cross created for the event by Salvadoran artist Christian Chavarria Ayala visualized the Triune God’s creative, reconciling and sanctifying work.

During thanksgiving Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, stated: “Catholics and Lutherans embrace each other as sisters and brothers in the Lord. Together they rejoice in the truly Christian gifts that they both have received and rediscovered in various ways through the renewal and impulses of the Reformation.”

Bishop Younan thanked God “for the proclamation of the gospel that occurred during the Reformation and that since then has strengthened countless people to live lives of faith in Jesus Christ.”

The affirmation of five imperatives formulated in the report From Conflict to Communion was symbolized by the lighting of a candle once each one had been read. The five Imperatives commit Lutherans and Catholics to strengthen what is held in common, to transformation by the encounter with the other and by the mutual witness of faith, to seeking visible unity through concrete steps, to rediscovering the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ for our time and to joint witness in proclamation and service to the world.

As a sign that Catholics and Lutherans were committed to taking a further step towards the unity into which God calls the church, Pope Francis and LWF President Younan signed a Joint Statement. The statement calls on Lutheran and Catholic parishes and communities to be “bold and creative, joyful and hopeful in their commitment to continue the great journey ahead of us.”

— Compiled from information provided by the Lutheran World Federation.