Although great strides have been made through 50 years of ecumenical dialogue, Catholics and Lutherans must continue to work toward becoming a full and visible sign of unity for the world, Pope Francis said.
A continued “communion of harmony” will allow Catholics and Lutherans
to “find further convergence on points of doctrine and the moral
teaching of the church,” the pope told members of a pilgrimage from the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Jan. 19.
“I pray to the Lord that he may bestow his blessing on the
Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland, which is working
diligently toward a common sacramental understanding of the church, the
Eucharist and ecclesial ministry,” he said.
The pope met the Finnish delegation during the annual Week of Prayer
for Christian Unity.
The theme chosen for the 2017 observance was:
“Reconciliation: The love of Christ compels us.”
The week of prayer, Pope Francis said, urges Catholics and Lutherans
to reconcile and “draw closer to one another anew through conversion.”
“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,” the pope said.
Recalling his visit to Sweden last October to commemorate the 500th
anniversary of Martin Luther’s efforts to reform the church, the pope
said Luther’s intention “was to renew the church, not divide her” and
that the joint commemoration “was important on both the human and
“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.
Helping those who suffer persecution and violence, he added, can
further unite Christians “on the journey toward full communion.”
In doing so, the pope said, Catholics and Lutherans can put their
witness of faith into practice “through concrete acts of service,
fraternity and sharing.”
Speaking off-the-cuff, Pope Francis thanked Lutheran Archbishop Kari
Makinen of Turku for bringing his grandchildren to the meeting.
“We need the simplicity of children; they teach us the way to Jesus Christ,” the pope said.