(Vatican Radio) The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation offers Catholics and Lutherans an opportunity to take further steps towards reconciliation and full Christian unity. That was Pope Francis’ message on Monday to an ecumenical delegation from Germany, led by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops conference, and top Protestant Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the Evangelical Churches in Germany (EKD).
Welcoming the delegation to the Vatican, Pope Francis praised the positive relationship between Catholics and Lutherans in Germany, urging them to be courageous and determined in their continuing journey together. “We share the same baptism”, he said, “we must walk together tirelessly!”
Reflecting on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation , he said it’s an opportunity to put Christ back at the centre of their ecumenical relations. Just as the question of a merciful God was the driving force of Luther and the other Reformers, so it must be at the heart of our joint efforts to propose the radical truth of God’s limitless mercy to men and women today.
Speaking of the tragedy of divisions and conflict, fomented by political interests, the Pope praised the initiative of the German delegation to hold an ecumenical service of penitence and reconciliation entitled “Healing memories – witnessing to Jesus Christ”.
Catholics and Lutherans will also be participating in other joint events this year, he said, including a shared pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a congress to present new translations of the Bible and an ecumenical day dedicated to shared social responsibility.
Thanks to a shared spiritual communion that has been rediscovered over recent decades, the Pope said, Catholics and Lutherans can together deplore the failures of the Reformation on both sides, as well as appreciating the many gifts which we have received from it.
The current challenges of faith and morals facing our Churches today, Pope Francis concluded, impel us to step up our efforts and increase our cooperation in the service of the poor and the protection of our planet. In a period of serious divisions and new forms of exclusion, he said, we are urgently called by God to follow the path of unity and reconciliation.German