LWF Delegation Meets Pope Francis

The Pope received a refugee’s teapot as an invitation to work together for the suffering neighbor. Photo: Osservatore Romano

Strengthening Churches’ Commitment to the Poor and Vulnerable

(LWI) – During an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican earlier today, leaders from The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) expressed gratitude for the partnership with the Roman Catholic Church that makes it possible for churches to strengthen their commitment to the poor and vulnerable.

“As people who have been encountered by Christ, we are called to accompany the poor and vulnerable. The message of reconciliation entrusted to us turns into the hope for our fragmented world and its yearning for peace with justice,” LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan said in LWF’s greeting to the pope.

Younan expressed gratitude for the ecumenical milestones of the partnership with Catholics, including the recent publication of the report “From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration in 2017.”

By jointly approaching a shared history which includes elements of pain “the promise of healing appears on the horizon,” Younan said of the publication that outlines the mutual responsibility by Lutherans and Catholics for a common approach to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

The June 2013 report by the Lutheran–Roman Catholic Commission on Unity marked the first time that both partners have worked together at the global level to tell the history of the Reformation as part of their commitment to deepen Christian unity. Baptism is the focus of ongoing dialogue by the commission, which will mark its 50th anniversary in 2017.

In his response, Francis said confronting the historical reality of the Reformation is important as it also enables Catholics and Lutherans to rejoice together “in the longing for unity which the Lord has awakened in our hearts, and which makes us look with hope to the future.”

Protecting Refugees and Migrants

LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge thanked the pope for his clear and passionate reminder to the human family and governments of the duty to protect migrants and refugees, during the pontiff’s recent visit to the island of Lampedusa, an arrival port for migrants from Northern Africa.

Junge presented Francis with a teapot from a Somali refugee woman at the world’s largest refugee camp – Dadaab. He explained that the hot tea made in the kettle was almost the only thing that sustained this group of refugees as they fled to neighboring Kenya.

“As people who have been met by Christ, we are freed and sent to meet our suffering neighbor. Let this gift therefore be an invitation to do more together for the sake of the suffering,” the general secretary added.

The pope expressed sincere appreciation for the tea kettle, saying it is a gift that he will keep “as a reminder of this dimension of ecumenism, the ecumenism of martyrdom." Persecution, he noted, “does not know denominational barriers. Religious divisions do not define people fleeing conflict or migrating in order to safeguard their own lives. They are ultimately defined by what they are: children of God,” Francis added.

The LWF delegation included Vice-Presidents—National Bishop Susan C. Johnson (North America), Rev. Dr Gloria Rojas Vargas (Latin America and the Caribbean) and Ms Eun-hae Kwon (Asia)—and Bishop Dr Milos Klátik (Chairperson of the Council Committee for Theology and Ecumenical Relations). Other members were Rev. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka, LWF Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations; the Commission’s co-chairperson Bishop emeritus Dr Eero Huovinen (Finland) and Prof. Theodor Dieter, director of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France.