As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
Pope Francis and Lutheran leaders celebrated an ecumenical service in the Cathedral of Lund (Sweden). They signed a joint statement “to move towards the communion to which God continually calls us.”
Pope Francis, Bishop Munib Youan, President of the Lutheran Federation (LWF), Cardinal Koch, President of Pontificial Council for promoting Christian unity, and Martin Junge, General Secretary of the LWF, have led the ecumenical service in the Lutheran Cathedral of Lund, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Reformation.
Following the guidelines given in the document “Common prayer: From conflict to communion”, during the service there were times of praying, singing, thanksgiving, and also repentance for “what both sides have done wrong.” Both pope Francis and Martin Junge also preached on the gospel of the true vine (John 15:1-5)
FRANCIS: “AN OPPORTUNITY TO MEND A CRITICAL MOMENT”
In his homily, Francis described the meeting as an “opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by going beyond controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.”
Speaking in Spanish, the pope explained that Reformation “has enabled us to better understand some aspects of our faith.” “The spiritual experience of Martin Luther challenges us to remember that apart from God, we can do nothing", he added.
“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”, Francis concluded.
JUNGE: “WE ARE BRANCHES OF THE SAME VINE”
Also speaking in Spanish, Martin Junge started thanking ”the men and women in the past from both Churches who sought to overcome the Reformation divide through dialogue, prayer and common works of charity.”
“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” he said.
Junge stated that “God, would like to see Catholics and Lutherans 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.”
“MOVE TOWARDS THE COMMUNION TO WHICH GOD CALLS US”
At the end of the service, Pope Francis and bishop Munib Youan signed a joint declaration aiming to improve relations and work together to heal conflicts, welcome refugees and care for the planet.
“Theological differences were accompanied by prejudice and conflicts, and religion was instrumentalized for political ends. Today, we hear God’s command to set aside all conflict. We recognize that we are freed by grace to move towards the communion to which God continually calls us”, the statement said.
MALMO ARENA EVENT
After the service in the Cathedral of Lund, the four religious leaders headed to the Malmö Arena, to participate in public event. They arrived by car to a stage which was a big cross, in a crowed stadium.
Martin Junge opened the event, explaining what they had done in the common prayer service. He pointed out that “that service wont be completed if it does not move us from the cathedral to the the needs of the people.”
Catholic and Lutheran speakers from Burundi, Colombia, India, South Sudan and Syria shared their testimonies about reaching out to those needing hope and encouragement.
Climate change, child abuse, refugee crisis and peace were the main topics of those testimonies. Pope Francis and bishop Younan thanked the four activists and stressed the need of “no more hate in the name of religion.”
Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo Antoine Audo also spoke of peace and the role of religion, stating that “in mutual respect and attention to the poorest—whether Christian or Muslim religion should encourage us to defend the human values of dignity, solidarity and seeking the common good.”
LUTHERAN WORLD SERVICE AND CARITAS AGREEMENT
Lutheran World Service and Caritas Internationalis signed a Declaration of Intent, to strengthen their cooperation and global engagement as an expression of their common faith in God.