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Lutheran Pastor in Rome Recalls Pope’s Visit in This Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Says Next Year’s 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Is Occasion to Promote Ecumenism

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Two steps from Via Veneto rises the church of the Lutheran Evangelical Community of Rome — austere on the outside but hospitable and pleasing inside, with valuable mosaics  and rich decorations.
“We have been here for almost a century, when the Community constructed the building in a terrain acquired with the economic help of the Prussian King where at one time the Villa Ludovisi was located,” explained in an interview with ZENIT Pastor Jens-Martin Kruse. He also said that the Community goes back to 1817, and that in its first 100 years Evangelical worship took place within the walls of the Prussian Embassy to the Holy See, today headquarters of the Capitoline Museums in the Campidoglio.
Therefore, the Pastor added, “2017 will be for us a double celebration: in addition to the 500 years of the Lutheran Reformation, we will also celebrate the 200 years of our presence in Rome,” — a presence of Protestants in the heart of Catholicism, which has been consolidated over the years.
The times when Protestant worship was prohibited in Rome seem very distant. Today Reverend Kruse, leader of a Community of some 500 members, which he describes as “very lively,” says he “feels at home.” He holds that the presence of other Christian Communities makes Rome the “capital of all the Churches of the world,” so that he is “proud to bring the Lutheran voice to this concert of ecumenism.”
It was a concert that sounded a particularly happy note last November, with Pope Francis’ visit to this church. “It was a most beautiful meeting, because the whole Community perceived that Pope Francis interprets the spirit of the Gospel. It was a meeting between friends, reflecting trust and love: We prayed together and were able to hear one of his splendid homilies on a passage of the Gospel,” recalled Reverend Kruse.
In 2010 the Pastor also received Benedict XVI (with whom he “spoke in German in a very fraternal way,” he affirmed). Reverend Kruse stressed, therefore, “the ecumenical importance” of his Community, a place of Popes’ visits.
Ecumenism of blood
In this Week dedicated to Prayer for Christian Unity, one of our common intentions is for persecuted Christians. “The witness of these martyrs teaches us unity, because they are killed not for the reason of their membership in the Catholic or Protestant Church, but rather because they are Christians,” affirmed Reverend Kruse.
“Their courage in witnessing the faith even in face of threats of death is another teaching that from those lands of persecution reaches here, in the secularized West. Spread throughout Europe is a lack of interest in the concerns of the Church,” said Reverend Kruse, who invited Christians, therefore, “to proclaim the Gospel without fear and to live it in the everyday. As Pope Francis always says, we must come out of our Churches to give witness to the society.”
According to the Lutheran Pastor, an occasion in this sense will be the celebration of the 500 years of the Lutheran Reformation in 2017. An anniversary, however, that also recalls the memory of a schism seasoned by violent episodes and rancors that are not yet altogether assuaged.
And it was in fact on the architect of the Reformation that our focus rested at the end of the interview. Reverend Kruse, a year before the 500th anniversary of that event, admitted that for many of his co-religionists it will be an occasion “to extol Luther and his Reformation,” an approach that he considers mistaken. The Pastor’s invitation in fact is to make use of this celebration, “taking a further step towards ecumenism,” also to “reflect serenely on the figure of Luther, recognizing in his message what is important today for our faith and what no longer is.” Moreover, he concluded: “the Lutheran church was not born with Luther, but rather with Jesus Christ at Pentecost.”

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Federico Cenci

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