500th of Luther’s Reformation: joint statement by Lutheran World Federation and Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, journey travelled is “sign of hope for the world”

“We recognize that while the past cannot be changed, its influence upon us today can be transformed to become a stimulus for growing communion, and a sign of hope for the world to overcome division and fragmentation. Again, it has become clear that what we have in common is far more than that which still divides us. This is the “key” point in the joint statement released by the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the conclusion of the year of the common commemoration of the Reformation. Today, 31 October 2017, is the final day of the year of Commemoration and Lutherans and Catholics in their statement express their gratitude for the “spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation”; at the same time, they ask for “forgiveness for our failures and for the ways in which Christians have wounded the Body of the Lord and offended each other during the five hundred years since the beginning of the Reformation until today”. And they go on to say: “We, Lutherans and Catholics, are profoundly grateful for the ecumenical journey that we have travelled together during the last fifty years. This pilgrimage, sustained by our common prayer, worship and ecumenical dialogue, has resulted in the removal of prejudices, the increase of mutual understanding and the identification of decisive theological agreements. In the face of so many blessings along the way, we raise our hearts in praise of the Triune God for the mercy we receive”. The statement looks back on the year just lived, which started on 31 October 2016 with the joint Lutheran-Catholic prayer celebrated in Lund, Sweden, in the presence of Pope Francis. “Among the blessings of this year of Commemoration – Catholics and Lutherans state – is the fact that for the first time Lutherans and Catholics have seen the Reformation from an ecumenical perspective. This has allowed new insight into the events of the sixteenth century which led to our separation”. In reiterating that what unites us is greater than what divides us, the statement recalls the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed in 1999 and that today “is being welcomed and received by the Anglican Communion at a solemn ceremony in Westminster Abbey”. And finally: “Looking forward, we commit ourselves to continue our journey together, guided by God’s Spirit, towards the greater unity according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

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