Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis met today with the new president of the Lutheran World Federation, Nigerian Archbishop Musa Panti Filibus.
In his greetings, the pontiff said that Catholics and Lutherans cannot afford to be adversaries or rivals”. He added “that the painful divisions that kept us distant and in conflict for centuries, have brought us in recent decades to a journey of communion, the path of ecumenism awakened by the Holy Spirit.”
Citing the recently concluded year marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and his trip to Lund, on 31 October 2016 (pictured), Francis stressed that “the gift of unity among believers takes root and blossoms not as a result of human projects but by the grace of God.”
For the pontiff, “Only by praying can we care for one another. Prayer purifies and strengthens us; it illumines our path and enables us to move forward. Prayer is like the fuel of our journey towards full unity. Indeed, the love of the Lord, which we experience in prayer, sets in motion the charity that draws us closer; it is the source of our patient expectation, the motive of our efforts at reconciliation, and the power that enables us to go forward together.”
“By praying,” Francis added, “we can constantly see one another in the right perspective, that of God our Father, whose loving gaze rests on each of us, without preferences or distinctions. In the Spirit of Jesus, in whom we pray, we realize that we are brothers and sisters. This must be our continual starting point.”
Indeed, “the painful divisions that kept us distant and in conflict for centuries, have brought us in recent decades to a journey of communion, the path of ecumenism awakened by the Holy Spirit. This has led us to abandon old biases like those having to do with Martin Luther and the state of the Catholic Church in that period.”
For Francis, “A significant contribution has been made in this regard by the dialogue between the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, initiated in 1967.” This has led to “certain particularly important texts, such as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and, most recently, From Conflict to Communion”.
“With a purified memory, we can now look with confidence to a future unburdened by past conflicts and preconceptions, a future whose only debt is that of mutual love (cf. Rom 13:8), a future which calls us to discern the gifts coming from the different confessional traditions and to receive them as a common patrimony.”
“Prior to all disagreements, differences and past hurts, there is the present, foundational and permanent reality of our baptism, which has made us children of God and brothers and sisters of one another. Henceforth we will never again allow ourselves to be adversaries or rivals. Although the past cannot be changed, the future challenges us: we can no longer refuse to seek and foster greater communion in charity and faith.”
Hence, it is necessary to “against the temptation of halting along the way. In the spiritual life, as in ecclesial life, whenever we halt, we are always turning back. To be self-content, to pause out of fear, indolence, weariness or convenience in the midst of our journey to the Lord in the company of our brothers and sisters, is to refuse his invitation.”
What is more, “fine ideas are not enough; there is a need for concrete steps and outstretched hands. That means, above all, spending ourselves in charity, looking to the poor and the least of the Lord’s brethren” who “represent precious signposts to us along our way.”
“By this simple, exemplary and radical way of acting, we are called, today in particular, to proclaim the Gospel, the priority of our Christian life in the world” through “Reconciled unity”.
“Along the way, we are spurred on by the example of all those who have suffered for the name of Jesus and are already fully reconciled in his Paschal victory. How many there are, even in our own day, who are suffering for their witness to Jesus! Their heroism, shown in meekness and peace, urgently summons us to an ever more authentic fraternity.”