Saturday, October 29, 2016

Pope’s Sweden trip, a step forward in closer relations with Lutherans"You cannot be Catholic and sectarian, we must attempt to get along with others”, says Pope Francis. 

He was outlining his vision of relations with the Protestant Reformation on the eve of his trip to Sweden, October 31-November 1) to participate in the ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation in an interview with Father Ulf Jonsson, director of the Swedish Jesuit magazine Signum and Father Antonio Spadaro, director of Civiltà Cattolica.
The theme of this papal journey is "From conflict to communion. Together in hope "and it aims also to commemorate the fifty years of official dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics. The trip was defined by Card. Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, as "a historic moment". "You can really talk about a milestone in the path of reconciliation and unity - he told Vatican Radio – in the common search between the Churches and ecclesial communities. And this moment so important, it is the fruit of dialogue that has developed in these 50 years, starting from Vatican Council II".

In his interview, Francis emphasized  the importance of "coming together" to avoid "being locked into rigid perspectives, because there is no possibility of reform in these." The hope and the expectation for this trip is to "be able to make a step forward in closer relations " with our “brothers and sisters of Sweden”.

When asked what we can learn from the Lutheran tradition, Francis responds indicating two words: Scripture, because "Luther made great strides in putting the Word of God in the hands of the people", translating the Bible into the language of the people and "reform ".

"Luther’s  was a gesture of reform at a difficult time for the Church". "Luther wanted to remedy a complex situation. Then this gesture, also because of political situations - we also think the cuius regio eius religio - has become a 'state' separation, and not a 'process' of reform of the whole Church, which instead is critical, because the Church must semper reformanda ", must always be reformed. And the demand for reform was "alive and well" even in discussions of the general congregations before the conclave that elected him Pope.

Noting that he is the second Pope to go to Sweden, after John Paul II, who went there in 1989, Francis recognizes that there are difficulties related to theological questions, but that the dialogue must continue. He also pointed to the "great ecumenical document on justification". And in common prayer and works of mercy done together, in favor of the poor and sick prisoners, there is a "high and effective form of dialogue." The important thing is "to work together and not in a sectarian way," keeping in mind that "proselytizing is a sinful behavior" and pointing out that there is "a blood ecumenism".

On the eve of the trip, it should be noted that the Pope's relations with the Protestant world are all excellent. In the interview he recalls the 2015  visit of the Archbishop Primate of the Church of Sweden, Antije Jeckelén (pictured) to the Vatican who made "a great speech." 

They were "beautiful and profound" questions posed to the intercommunion during the visit he made last year to the Lutheran Church of Rome. Again, in June this year returning  from the trip to Armenia he said that Luther was a "medicine" for the Catholic Church and a couple of weeks ago he received a group of Lutherans pilgrims at the Vatican. On the occasion, talking about the trip to Sweden, he argued that "an essential part of this commemoration will turn our gaze towards the future, in view of a common Christian witness in the world today, which so thirsts for God and his mercy. The witness that the world expects from us is mainly to make visible the mercy that God has toward us through service to the poor, the sick, those who have left their homeland to seek a better future for themselves and for loved ones. In placing ourselves at the service of the most needy we are already united: it is the mercy of God that unites us. "

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