Pope calls for “mutual forgiveness between Catholics and Lutherans”
In his address to the Lutheran World Federation and representatives of the Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity, Francis said “there are no lack of difficulties but we must not be afraid”
DOMENICO AGASSO JR
“Catholics and Lutherans can ask forgiveness for the harm they have caused one another and for their offenses committed in the sight of God,” Francis said during this morning’s audience with the delegation of the Lutheran World Federation and representatives of the Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity.
The Pope’s meeting with Bishop Munib Younan, the Federation’s president and its secretary, Martin Junge, follows on from the “very cordial and pleasant meeting” which took place during the inaugural celebration of Francis ministry as the Bishop of Rome.
“It is with a sense of profound gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ that I think of the many advances made in relations between Lutherans and Catholics in these past decades, not only through theological dialogue, but also through fraternal cooperation in a variety of pastoral settings, and above all, in the commitment to progress in spiritual ecumenism. In a certain sense, this last area constitutes the soul of our journey towards full communion, and permits us even now a foretaste of its results, however imperfect. 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. And, in the measure in which we ask the Lord for the gift of unity, we are sure that he will take us by the hand and be our guide,” Francis said.
“This year, as a result of a now fifty year old theological dialogue and with a view to the commemoration of the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, the text of the Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity was published, with the significant title: From Conflict to Communion. Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017. 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,” Francis continued.
“Catholics and Lutherans can ask forgiveness for the harm they have caused one another and for their offenses committed in the sight of God. 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.”
“I am certain,” Francis went on to say, “that we will continue our journey of dialogue and of communion, addressing fundamental questions as well as differences in the fields of anthropology and ethics. Certainly, there is no lack of difficulties, and none will lack in the future. They will continue to require patience, dialogue and mutual understanding. But we must not be afraid! We know well – as Benedict XVI often reminded us – that unity is not primarily the fruit of our labours, but the working of the Holy Spirit, to whom we must open our hearts in faith, so that he will lead us along the paths of reconciliation and communion.”
Finally, Francis quoted the Blessed John Paul II’s question: “How can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the same time being committed to working for reconciliation between Christians?” (Ut Unum Sint, 98). “May the faithful and constant prayer of our communities sustain theological dialogue, the renewal of life and the conversion of hearts, so that, with the Triune God, we will be able to journey together toward the fulfilment of Jesus’ desire that all may be one,” Francis prayed.