GENEVA, Switzerland, DEC. 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the message delivered today to Benedict XVI by Bishop Munib Younan, the president of the Lutheran World Federation and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land. The Pope received in audience today the bishop and a delegation of the Lutheran federation.
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On behalf of The Lutheran World Federation, I greet you in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We thank you for receiving us this morning, in this holy season of Advent. Advent is both earnest and festive; it holds together memory and hope. Thus it is a fitting time for us to meet together and to hold one another in our prayers.
In this season of renewal and beginning, we are here today as the new leadership of our LWF communion of churches. I was elected President in July at our Eleventh Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany. With me are the Vice Presidents from Africa, Central Eastern Europe, and the Nordic countries, and also our new General Secretary, Rev. Martin Junge, who began his term of office last month. Our delegation represents each region of our global communion.
As we begin our new roles, we welcome the opportunity for this audience. It is for us a sign which honors the remarkable developments between our churches during recent years, and a sign of our hope for what lies ahead. Within our own lifetimes, the climate of relations between Lutherans and Catholics has warmed dramatically – and this climate change has been for the good! Around the world our churches live in a new ecology of relationship. We too celebrated last month, when the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity observed its fiftieth anniversary. Today we want to assure you of the strength of our commitment to
continue deepening our life together.
We rejoice because of the ways in which we have reached new levels of theological understanding and agreement, notably in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This is a landmark ecumenical accomplishment: its implications are still being explored in many local contexts around the world and in our international theological dialogue.
We rejoice also because of the many ways in which we can work together in diakonia and advocacy. I would mention especially two:
First, we are united in commitment to address the injustices and idolatries exposed by the continuing global financial crisis. Your Holiness, we are grateful for the moral leadership you have provided consistently on these challenges. For our General Secretary also, this is a signature issue, with special attention to addressing the unfair burdens of illegitimate debt. Our witness will be stronger if we will work together on these problems. Thus we look forward to forging multiple cooperations with our Catholic sisters and brothers at all levels, locally as well as globally.
Second, an issue especially dear to my own heart, of course, is our common vision for a just peace in the Holy Land. Like you, we Lutherans have supported a two-state solution and a shared Jerusalem. Even when outward signs are discouraging, both of us will continue to work toward resolution of conflicts, which have persisted too long and extracted too great a cost. A just peace is possible in the Middle East. This fall I was pleased to participate in the Synod of Bishops devoted to the Christians in the Middle East. It is vital to have a coordinated effort for Christians in the Middle East. What is the Holy Land without indigenous Christians?
Our Stuttgart Assembly this past summer gave The Lutheran World Federation other directions which also are promising for our common witness to the gospel.
Prominent among these was movement toward reconciliation. At this Assembly, our Communion took a memorable action to ask forgiveness from Anabaptists for the legacies of persecutions in the sixteenth century. In preparing for this act, we were especially mindful of those traditions, including Catholics, who also had been persecutors. As Cardinal Kasper said to us, healing of memories with Mennonites is a common task for our communities. Then, with other ecumenical guests, he stood in solemn solidarity with the action. This was a moment when the Spirit of God could be felt in the Assembly. We believe that we took this action on behalf of the whole body of Christ. We pray that this spirit of repentance, reconciliation and renewal will continue to grow among us.
Above all, this was a praying Assembly. The theme itself was a prayer, “Give us today our daily bread.” The theme of bread unfolded to embrace the dimensions of care for the hungry; hunger for justice; and hunger for the Bread of Life. This Bread of Life appears in this small gift, which I have brought from the Holy Land for Your Holiness. It depicts a meal shared with the One who taught us to pray for daily bread. But of course first of all it calls to mind that Eucharistic meal at which the host is himself the Bread offered to us.
Each of us can bear witness to the importance of this sacramental meal in nurturing our own Christian lives. Each of us also knows the yearning for the time when we will be able to celebrate this feast together.
Today we want to reaffirm our commitment to moving closer toward one another around this Table of the Lord, which Luther saw as the “summa evangelii.” This is a commitment of our prayers, and also of our actions. While we rejoice in each small step which brings us closer together, we do not want to be content with these steps. We remain strong in hope – both for the full visible unity of Christ’s Church and for the Eucharistic communion which is so crucial a manifestation of that unity.
I emphasize this hope especially because we Lutherans already look toward 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation movement. We recognize that this will be a test case for ecumenical relations. For us there is joy in the liberating power of the gospel proclaimed afresh by the Reformers, and we will celebrate that. At the same time, we intend our anniversary to be ecumenically accountable: to recognize both damaging aspects of the Reformation and ecumenical progress since the last major Reformation anniversary. But we cannot achieve this ecumenical accountability on our own, without your help. We are called,
both Lutherans and Catholics, to our common vocation of witnessing to the world for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. Thus we invite you to work together with us in preparing this anniversary, so that in 2017 we are closer to sharing in the Bread of Life than we are today.
In love, we ask God to bless your distinctive ministry, and the entire Catholic Church. We ask that you remember in your prayers The Lutheran World Federation and our 145 member churches, even as we continue to remember you in our petitions to the God who comes to us anew this Advent. As we approach Christmas, I would greet you with the words from John, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”