Today, we hear God’s command to set aside all conflict. We recognise that we are freed by grace to move towards the communion to which God continually calls us
After 500 years of division, Catholic and Lutheran church leaders have come together in a historic show of unity, leading a joint prayer service in Sweden on Reformation Day, 31 October.
In addition to the Service of Common Prayer in Lund (Lutheran) Cathedral attended by 500 guests, the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation featured a public event at Malmö Arena attended by around 10,000 people. Proceedings were followed by people around the world via broadcasts and livestreams.
It was the first joint commemoration of a Reformation anniversary on a global scale. Bishop John Henderson represented the LCA, while Australian Lutheran World Service Executive Secretary Chey Mattner attended on behalf of the LCA’s overseas aid agency.
His Holiness Pope Francis joined Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Dr Munib A Younan and LWF General Secretary Rev Dr Martin Junge in committing the churches they lead to move away from conflict, journey towards communion and to strengthen their common witness. Pope Francis and President Younan signed the joint statement which also gives thanks to God for ‘sustained and fruitful’ ecumenical dialogue which means the partners ‘are no longer strangers’. It also expresses gratitude for ‘spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation’.
‘Today, we hear God’s command to set aside all conflict. We recognise that we are freed by grace to move towards the communion to which God continually calls us’, the statement says.
Pope Francis and Dr Junge each preached in Spanish on the gospel of the true vine (John 15:1-5), testifying to the unity Lutherans and Catholics enjoy through Christ and the opportunities for joint witness in a world in need of the saving message of the gospel.
Dr Junge focused on the Joint Statement theme that what unites Lutherans and Catholics is far greater than what divides them. ‘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’, he said.
Pope Francis said: ‘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 50 years in the ecumenical dialogue. 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.’
At the Malmö Arena activities held under the theme ‘Together in Hope’, LWF Lutheran World Service director Maria Immonen and Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy signed a Declaration of Intent committing the global Christian aid organisations to closer cooperation in their work towards humanitarian responses and sustainable development.
- Read the joint sermon by Pope Francis and LWF General Secretary Rev Dr Martin Junge
- You can watch the Joint Catholic–Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation on the LCA YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_mi-x8g5z8
- Listen to the ABC’s radio interview with Bishop John Henderson about this event.