For Pope Francis, personal conversion is pretty much the key to the Church’s success in all of her activities, from Church governance to pastoral work, from Curial reform to evangelization and dialogue.
He reiterated this point in a Jan. 19 speech to an ecumenical
delegation from Finland, telling them that “true ecumenism is based on a
shared conversion to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Redeemer.”
“If we draw close to him, we draw close also to one another,” he
said, and pointed to his trip to Sweden last fall for a
joint-commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Francis noted that at one of the ecumenical events held during his
visit both Catholics and Lutherans recognized that Martin Luther’s
original intention “was to renew the Church, not divide her.”
“The gathering there gave us the courage and strength, in our Lord
Jesus Christ, to look ahead to the ecumenical journey that we are called
to walk together,” he said, and urged members of the delegation to pray
fervently “so that we may experience this conversion which makes
Pope Francis spoke to members of the Ecumenical Delegation of the
Lutheran Church of Finland who traveled to Rome for their annual
pilgrimage marking the feast of St. Henrik, the country’s patron.
The delegation traditionally makes the pilgrimage during the Week of
Prayer for Christian Unity, which this year runs Jan. 18-25 and holds
the theme “Love of Christ pushes us toward reconciliation.”
In his speech, Francis said the joint-commemoration of the
Reformation in Sweden was important “on both the human and
After 50 years of official ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and
Lutherans, “we have succeeded in clearly articulating points of view
which today we agree on,” he said, and voiced his gratitude. However, at
the same time “we keep alive in our hearts sincere contrition for our
faults,” he said, pointing to the current divisions among Christians.
Francis also said, as illustrated during his trip to Sweden,
“theological dialogue remains essential for reconciliation” among
Christians, Catholics and Lutherans in particular, but noted that this
dialogue has already “advanced through steadfast commitment.”
“Thus, in that communion of harmony which permits the Holy Spirit to
act, we will be able to find further convergence on points of doctrine
and the moral teaching of the Church, and will be able to draw ever
closer to full and visible unity,” he said.
He prayed particularly for the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission
in Finland, which is currently “working diligently” to find “a common
sacramental understanding” of the Church, the Eucharist and ecclesial
Given the steps that have already been taken and those that are being
made now, the Pope said the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the
Reformation in 2017 offers Catholics and Lutherans an opportunity to
focus on the Gospel and to seek Christ together “with renewed vigor.”
He encouraged the delegation to make a similar commitment to the one
made between the Catholic and Lutheran delegations in Sweden, promising
to work together to serve the poor, needy and those who suffer
persecution and violence.
By doing this, “as Christians we are no longer divided, but rather
united on the journey toward full communion,” Pope Francis said.
He noted how 2017 also marks Finland’s 100th anniversary as an
independent State, and prayed that the milestone would “encourage all
the Christians of your country to profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
– as did Saint Henrik so zealously.”
Francis closed his address praying that the delegation’s pilgrimage
would “contribute to further strengthening the good cooperation between
Orthodox, Lutherans and Catholics in Finland and in the world.”