Lutheran and Catholic leaders joined together Monday to sign a joint declaration to signify the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
Pope Francis went to Sweden for the ecumenical prayer service, saying this was an opportunity to “accept a common path.”
Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, also signed the declaration.
The declaration said: "While we are profoundly thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, we also confess and lament before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church. Theological differences were accompanied by prejudice and conflicts, and religion was instrumentalised for political ends."
Francis did not make any mention of inter-communion, since the Catholic Church believes the Eucharist can only be shared when full unity is restored.
"Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table as the concrete expression of full unity,” the joint statement said. It vowed "the goal of our ecumenical endeavours" was a shared communion.
The signing also marked the start of 12 months commemorating the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses that have long been known as the foundation of Protestantism. The events are meant to help open more dialogue after 500 years of division between the Catholic and Protestant churches.
The pope is planning a mass in Malmö; there is a joint text in Germany for the “healing of memories” between Catholic and Protestant churches; and a pilgrimage to the Holy Land just concluded.
“My hunch is that we’re probably moving to a stage where we’ll have the religious equivalent of multiculturalism,” said Richard Holloway, a former Anglican bishop of Edinburgh. “We won’t seek to merge, as it were, but we’ll seek to see the value in differences as long as they’re balanced with a sympathetic tolerance towards each other.”
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: November 1, 2016