Half a millennium after the Reformation, Catholics and Lutherans have a “new opportunity to accept a common path,” says Pope Francis.
The Pope said this today in Sweden, where he is on an ecumenical journey to commemorate the start of the Reformation by focusing on the 50 years of dialogue that have highlighted the points of unity between Catholics and Lutherans.
We cannot be “resigned to the division and distance that our separation has created between us,” he said. “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.”
Speaking of God the Father as the vinedresser who tends and prunes the vine to make it bear more fruit, the Bishop of Rome said there should be recognition that “our division distanced us from the primordial intuition of God’s people, who naturally yearn to be one, and that it was perpetuated historically by the powerful of this world rather than the faithful people.”
“Certainly, our separation has been an immense source of suffering and misunderstanding, yet it has also led us to recognize honestly that without [Jesus] we can do nothing; in this way it has enabled us to understand better some aspects of our faith,” he said.
The Pope said that with gratitude we can “acknowledge that the Reformation helped give greater centrality to sacred Scripture in the Church’s life.”
He also said that Martin Luther, “with the concept ‘by grace alone,’” reminds us that God “always takes the initiative, prior to any human response, even as he seeks to awaken that response. The doctrine of justification thus expresses the essence of human existence before God.”
The Pope then reiterated the need for unity in order to give witness to our faith.
We pray, he said, “‘Grant us the gift of unity, so that the world may believe in the power of your mercy.’ This is the testimony the world expects from us. We Christians will be credible witnesses of mercy to the extent that forgiveness, renewal and reconciliation are daily experienced in our midst. Together we can proclaim and manifest God’s mercy, concretely and joyfully, by upholding and promoting the dignity of every person. Without this service to the world and in the world, Christian faith is incomplete.”
On ZENIT’s Web page: