"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
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. "