(Vatican Radio) Five months on from the joint commemoration of the Reformation by Pope Francis and Lutheran leaders, the President of the Lutheran World Federation says he believes the ecumenical energy of that event is penetrating hearts and minds of Christians across the globe.
Speaking to Philippa Hitchen at his Jerusalem residence last week, Bishop Munib Younan said that working for unity within the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities is the only way to “cut the roots of extremism and sectarianism” which threaten society today.
Reflecting on the joint commemoration in Lund cathedral and Malmo arena last October 31st, Bishop Younan describes it as “a blessed moment” where “the Holy Spirit was guiding us”. He recalls that he and Pope Francis “promised each other that we will continue this journey of unity and ecumenism, locally and internationally”.
Incarnating spirit of Lund at local level
Commenting on the fruits of that event, the LWF leader gives examples of Churches, such as France, Germany and Italy, that have incarnated its spirit into their local communities through conferences, joint liturgies and healing services.
In Jerusalem, he goes on, Catholic and Lutheran leaders have held two joint services in Arabic, the first in a packed Lutheran church in Amman, Jordan, and the second in the Catholic church dedicated to St Catherine inside Bethlehem’s Basilica of the Nativity.
Unity can combat sectarianism
These are vital signs “that we are fighting extremism and sectarianism,” Younan says. He cites the words of Muslim leader, Dr Mohammad Sammak, who said his community “should learn from Lutherans and Catholics, from the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation, how to combat sectarianism as Muslims”.
He describes the process as a rolling snowball that is “becoming bigger and bigger”, explaining that reception means “not only to leave it in Geneva and in the Vatican, but we should have it infiltrated, penetrating into the hearts and minds, that there is no other way than unity”.
Ecumenism in the Holy Land
Speaking of the importance of this work In the Holy Land, the LWF president says “if ecumenism succeeds in the Holy Land, it succeeds in the whole world”. At the grass roots in Palestine, Israel and Jordan, he says, people are “yearning for unity and sometimes they are ahead of us” as church leaders. The remaining theological disagreements, he says, “are minor” compared to the “main doctrine which is Christ and his salvation”.
“What we have done in Lund,” Younan says, is a challenge for Christians, Muslims and Jews alike: “how can we cut the roots of extremism, sectarianism and denominationalism?” We Christians should be “vanguards in carrying the message of unity,” he adds.
Energy of Lund brings results
Finally Bishop Younan insists that “ecumenism is not only dependent on theological, scientific dialogue, but also on trust and friendship”. Thanks to “openness and energy of Lund”, he concludes “I believe in 10 or maximum 15 years” Catholics and Lutherans may sign an agreement on mutual recognition at the Eucharistic table. “This is my prayer,” he concludes, “and I believe the Holy Spirit is guiding us in the right way.”