On the path towards full and visible unity in faith, sacramental life and ecclesial mystery, there is still much work to be done, but “we can be sure that the Paraclete Spirit will always be light and strength for spiritual ecumenism and theological dialogue.”
These were the words of Pope Francis this morning in his meeting with Lutheran Bishop Antje Jackelén of Upsala, along with a delegation of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Sweden.
The Holy Father recalled last year’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s decree, Unitatis Redintegratio, “that even today represents the fundamental point of reference for the ecumenical efforts of the Catholic Church.”
“This document is an invitation to all Catholics to undertake the path of unity to overcome division between Christians, which is “not only openly opposed to the will of Christ, but is also a scandal to the world and damages the holiest of causes: the preaching of the Gospel to every creature,” he said.
The two churches, he said, are not adversaries or in competition, but rather “brothers and sisters in the faith.”
Catholics and Lutherans must seek and promote unity in dioceses, in parishes, in communities throughout the world”, he stressed.
The Jesuit Pope emphasised the call to unity which implies “a pressing exhortation to joint commitment at the charitable level, in favor of all those who suffer in the world as a result of poverty and violence, and have a special need for our mercy.” Recalling the persecution of Christians in various parts of the world, the Pope said that their suffering “drives us to grow in fraternal communion.”
The Pope also noted the issue of the dignity of human life, which he said was of “urgent relevance”, particularly issues regarding family, marriage and sexuality.
“It would be a pity if new confessional differences were to be consolidated with regard to these important questions,” he said.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis thanked the delegation of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Sweden, expressing his hoper for future collaboration between Lutherans and Catholics. He also thanked them “for the welcome given to so many South American migrants in the times of the dictatorships; a fraternal welcome that has enabled families to grow.”