Vatican Official to Join in Ceremony With Lutherans

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2011 ( The president of the Vatican’s Christian unity council will join with a Lutheran delegation Sunday in a ceremony at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, which will show «that the dialogue between the two communities has become a reality of life and that the ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church […] is irrevocable and irreversible.»

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This was affirmed in a statement from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which noted that the dicastery president, Cardinal Kurt Koch will participate in the Sunday event. The ceremony will include the planting and blessing of a tree, in twinship with an ecumenical project in Germany.

The cardinal will participate in the ceremony along with a delegation of leaders from the United Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Germany, led by Bishop Dr. Johannes Friedrich. The group will «plant and bless an olive tree as a sign of the ecumenical communion that has grown up to now between Catholics and Lutherans,» the statement from the pontifical council reported.

The event takes place in the context of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, under way until Tuesday, feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

The tree planting ceremony is twinned with the project «Luther’s Garden» in Wittenberg, Germany. The garden was opened in 2008, and according to the Lutheran World Federation, is designed to symbolize the «global magnitude of the Reformation,» as well as the «interconnectedness, interaction, and reconciliation between Christian churches.» Different ecclesial groups around the world are being invited to sponsor the 500 trees projected to be planted in the garden.

The Lutheran delegation is visiting the Vatican in the context of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s visit to Rome. On Monday, the Evangelical-Lutheran delegation will be received in private audience by Benedict XVI.

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