Here is a translation of the greeting the Pope addressed to those present.
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Dear Lutheran Brothers and Sisters, and Dear Catholic Brethren,
I gladly welcome all of you, delegation of the Lutheran World Federation and representatives of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic International Commission on Unity. This meeting follows the very cordial and pleasant one I had with you, esteemed Bishop Younan, and with the Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, Reverend Junge, on the occasion of the celebration of the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome.
I look, with a sense of profound gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ, at the numerous steps that relations between Lutherans and Catholics have taken in the last decades, and not only through theological dialogue, but also through fraternal collaboration in many pastoral areas, above all, in the commitment to progress in spiritual ecumenism. The latter constitutes, in a certain sense, the soul of our journey to full communion, and enables us to look forward henceforth to some fruit, even if imperfect: in the measure in which we come close with humility of spirit to Our Lord Jesus Christ, we are certain to come close also between ourselves, and in the measure in which we invoke from the Lord the gift of unity, we are certain that He will take us by the hand and He will be our guide. We must let ourselves be taken by the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This year, as a result of theological dialogue that is now in its fiftieth year, and in view of the commemoration of the fifth centenary of the Reformation, the text was published of the Commission for Lutheran-Catholic Unity, with the significant title: “From Conflict to Communion. The Lutheran-Catholic Interpretation of the Reformation in 2017.” The effort seems very important to me that we all confront one another in dialogue on the historical necessity of the Reformation, on its consequences and on the answers that have been given to it. Catholics and Lutherans can ask for forgiveness for the evil caused to one another and for the offenses committed before God, and together to rejoice for the nostalgia of unity that the Lord has reawakened in our hearts, and which makes us look ahead with a look of hope.
In the light of the journey in these decades, and of so many examples of fraternal communion between Lutherans and Catholics, of which we are witnesses, comforted by trust in the grace that is given to us in the Lord Jesus Christ, I am certain that we will be able to go forward on our path of dialogue and communion, also addressing the fundamental questions, as well as the divergences that arise, in the anthropological and ethical field. Of course, difficulties are not lacking and will not be lacking; they will again require patience, dialogue, and reciprocal understanding, but let us not be fearful! We know well – as Benedict XVI reminded us many times – that unity is not primarily the fruit of our effort but of the action of the Holy Spirit, to whom we must open our hearts with trust so that He can lead us on the path to reconciliation and communion.
Blessed John Paul II wondered: “How to proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the same time being committed to work for the reconciliation of Christians?” (Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 98). May faithful and constant prayer in our communities be able to sustain the theological dialogue, the renewal of life and the conversion of hearts so that, with the help of God One and Triune, we are able to walk towards the fulfillment of the desire of the Son, Jesus Christ, that all may be one. Thank you.[Translation by ZENIT]