Theologians tasked to remove obstacles that hinder enjoyment of unity

LWF General Secretary Junge praises Lutheran-Catholic Commission at its 50th anniversary

(LWI)-The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge has lauded the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity as it marks 50 years of dialogue, urging it to continue healing the broken church.

He wrote to the commission on the anniversary as it meets in Poland, 18-25 July, to finalize a draft report on baptism and unity and celebrate the dialogue launched in 1967.

LWF Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations Rev. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka read Junge’s letter to the Commission this evening in Kamień Śląski, near Opole. In the letter, the general secretary highlighted how the commission’s work has produced numerous important documents that have been a gift to the ecumenical movement, and urged the group to remain focused on God’s call to the unity of the church.

“Our task as theologians and as pastors should never be to provide explanations as to why unity is not yet possible; our task shall be to creatively and courageously remove the obstacles that still prevent us from the enjoyment of God’s gift of unity,” he declared.

The general secretary expressed gratitude that both Lutherans and Catholics have remained mindful of their 50 years of dialogue as they approached the 500th anniversary of the Reformation being marked in 2017.

Lutheran leaders wanted to make certain that those celebrating the occasion from their tradition were cognizant of the fact that they had a shared history with Roman Catholics prior to the Reformation.

They also wanted Lutherans to understand that the Reformation is an ongoing process. That is why the LWF worked with other traditions to approach the anniversary with a spirit of ecumenical accountability.

“We wanted to make sure that we would firmly include the ecumenical progress and its milestones in the Reformation anniversary, rather than wiping away all these positive developments,” Junge explained.

Deep encounters in prayer, joint service to the suffering

The general secretary praised the role dialogue and ecumenical collaboration have played over many years, highlighting their contribution to the ecumenical movement, and to the healing of a wounded world.

 “Decades of ecumenical dialogue, deep encounters in prayer, and passionate joint service to suffering people in the world have brought about trust, mutual understanding, and differentiated consensus in basic issues of faith.”

He expressed gratitude for the commission taking time out from its dialogue on Baptism to publish From Conflict to Communion, the story of the Reformation told by both Lutherans and Roman Catholics, now translated into 15 languages.

“This eagerness to translate the report into vernacular shows its pivotal importance in framing and offering ecumenical approaches to the Reformation anniversary to both Lutherans and Roman Catholics,” Junge said.

From Conflict to Communion also provided a sound approach for the Reformation anniversary celebrations, particularly the Joint Commemoration in Sweden on 31 October co-hosted by LWF leaders and Pope Francis.

“The Joint Commemoration represents a true milestone in the Roman Catholic-Lutheran relationship, one that is deeply grounded in theological discernment and which—similar to other milestones earlier in history—will probably show all its full potential and possibilities in the years to come,” Junge concluded.

Celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the international dialogue on the evening of 22 July included the Common Prayer based on From Conflict to Communion. This was followed by a festive dinner attended by Archbishop Alfons Nossol, emeritus bishop of Opole and a former member of the commission, as well as Presiding Bishop Jerzy Samiec of the Polish Lutheran church, and other ecumenical guests.

Read the joint communiqué