Academic recognition of LWF’s ecumenical engagement

Rev. Dr Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

General Secretary Junge receives University of Notre Dame honorary doctorate

“A great honor and encouragement to continue leaving conflict behind and face a future of unity,” is how Rev. Dr Martin Junge, General Secretary of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) described an honorary doctor of laws degree awarded to him by the University of Notre Dame today.

The University of Notre Dame awarded Junge the doctorate for his commitment to a ministry of service and ecumenism. In its citation, the university recognized his leadership in LWF’s ecumenical approach to the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It mentioned the report, “From Conflict to Communion” jointly prepared by the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church, and laying the groundwork for the October 2016 Reformation commemoration co-hosted by Pope Francis and LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Junge in Lund and Malmö, Sweden.

The general secretary said he was humbled and surprised when he first received the news about the distinction, “but rightly suspected that it was the LWF communion worldwide, and less Martin Junge, being recognized. Congratulations to the LWF, because from its very foundation it has made its ecumenical vocation as one of its central axes of action.”

Junge continued: "The award is a major incentive to continue on the ecumenical path. And, coming from this prestigious Catholic university in the USA, which also bases its decision on the desire to mark 500 years of the Reformation in a spirit of reconciliation, is undoubtedly a gesture of great importance.”

In today’s times of fragmentation, often destructive discourse and politicization of religion, LWF’s testimony “will continue to be one of dialogue,” Junge emphasized. “It is not only our contribution to the search for church unity, but also about our contribution towards peacebuilding in our current times:It is possible to leave conflict behind and face a future of unity.”

He added that the joint commemoration in Sweden last year on 31 October, Reformation Day, “was undoubtedly a milestone of great importance in this long walk,” which in 2017 marks 50 years of the international Lutheran-Catholic dialogue.

Receiving the award only a few days after the 10-16 May Twelfth Assembly of the LWF, in Windhoek, Namibia, Junge recognized “the hard work of generations that preceded us in this task, men and women who in prayer, joint work and theological reflection have furthered the ecumenical cause.”

As people of faith, he noted, “we are aware that ultimately we owe gratitude to God for what God has done in the midst of God’s people. Ecumenical dialogue”, he added, “must complement and nourish itself with the joint witness to which God calls God’s people.”

The LWF general secretary joined six other distinguished men and women in the sciences, religion, business and architecture receiving honorary doctorates from Notre Dame, including Kevin Cardinal Farrell, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.