Lutherans believe in the real present

(October 31st - November 1st, 2016)



Monday October 31, 2016



"Remain in me, then I will remain in you" (Joh 15.4). These words, spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper, give us the opportunity to nestle into Christ's heart shortly before his final surrender on the cross. We can hear his heart pounding in love for us and feel his ardent desire that all who believe in him be one. He tells us that he is the true vine and we are the branches, and that if we are to bear fruit we must be united with him as he is united with the Father.

At this prayer meeting here in Lund, let us express our common desire to remain united with him in order to have life. We ask him: “Lord, help us with your grace so that we may be more closely connected with you, so that together we may more effectively witness faith, hope and love.” It is also a moment to thank God for the efforts of many of our brothers and sisters various ecclesiastical communities that have not resigned themselves to the split but have kept alive the hope of reconciliation for all who believe in the one Lord.

We Catholics and Lutherans have begun to move forward on the path of reconciliation. Now, as part of the common commemoration of the Reformation of 1517, we have a new chance to take up a common path that has developed over the past 50 years in ecumenical dialogue between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. We must not come to terms with the division and alienation that division has created among us. We have the opportunity to make up for a pivotal moment in our history by overcoming controversies and misunderstandings that have often prevented us from understanding each other.

Jesus tells us that the Father is the winemaker (cf. Joh 14.1), who tends and prunes the vine so that it bears more fruit (cf. v. 2). The Father is constantly concerned about our relationship with Jesus to see if we are really closely connected with him (cf. v. 4). He looks to us, and his loving gaze encourages us to come to terms with our past and to work in the present to make that future of unity he so longs for a reality.

We too need to be loving and honest about our past, admitting mistakes and asking for forgiveness. God alone is the judge. With the same honesty and love it must be admitted that our division has led away from the original feeling of God's people, who naturally long for unity, and has been sustained in history more by representatives of worldly power than by the will of believers People who always and everywhere require the safe and loving-gentle guidance of their Good Shepherd. However, there was an honest will on both sides to profess and defend the true faith, but we are also aware that we have holed up in ourselves out of fear or prejudice against the faith that the other with a different accentuation and profess in another language. Pope John Paul II said: "We cannot be guided by the intention of making ourselves judges of history, but the only aim must be to better recognize and thus to become more truthful" (Message to Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, President of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, October 31, 1983). God is the owner of the vineyard and he tends and protects it with immeasurable love. Let us be touched inwardly by the gaze of God - the only thing he wants is that we remain connected to his son Jesus as living vines. With this new view of the past, we do not claim to realize an impracticable correction of what has happened, but rather we intend to "tell this story differently" (Lutheran / Roman Catholic Commission for Unity, From conflict to community, 16 [Leipzig / Paderborn, 2013]).

Jesus reminds us: "You cannot do anything apart from me" (Joh 15.5). It is he who supports us and encourages us to look for the ways so that unity becomes an ever more visible reality. Separation has undoubtedly been a tremendous source of suffering and misunderstanding, but it has also led us to the honest understanding that we cannot do anything apart from Him, while also giving us the opportunity to better understand some aspects of our beliefs. We gratefully acknowledge that the Reformation helped place Scripture more at the center of the life of the Church. By listening together to the Word of God in Scripture, the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, whose 50th anniversary we are celebrating, has taken important steps. Let us ask the Lord that his word may hold us together, for it is a source of nourishment and life; we cannot accomplish anything without his inspiration.

Martin Luther's spiritual experience questions us and reminds us that we cannot achieve anything without God. “How do I get a gracious God?” - that is the question that Luther constantly asked. In fact, the question of the right relationship with God is the crucial question of life. As is well known, Luther encountered this merciful God in the good news of the incarnate, dead and risen Jesus Christ. With the principle "By grace alone“We are reminded that God always takes the initiative and anticipates any human response, and at the same time that He tries to trigger that response. Hence the doctrine of justification expresses the essence of human existence before God.

Jesus intervenes for us with the Father and asks him for the unity of his disciples “so that the world may believe « (Joh 17.21). This is what gives us strength and moves us to join Jesus, to plead with the Father: “Grant us the gift of unity so that the world may believe in the power of your mercy.” That is the testimony that the world expected from us. As Christians, we will be a credible testimony of mercy to the extent that forgiveness, renewal, and reconciliation are a daily experience among us. Together we can proclaim and reveal the mercy of God in a concrete and joyful way, defending and serving the dignity of every human being. Without this service to the world and in the world, the Christian faith is incomplete.

As Lutherans and Catholics, we pray together in this cathedral and are aware that we cannot accomplish anything apart from God. We ask his help so that we are living members connected with him, always in need of his grace, so that together we can carry his word into the world - into this world that so much needs his tender love and mercy.


on the occasion of the joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the Reformation

Lund, October 31, 2016


“Stay in me, then I'll stay in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit from itself, but only if it remains on the vine, so you cannot bear fruit either if you do not remain in me "(Joh 15,4).

With grateful hearts

With this Joint Declaration, we express our joyful gratitude to God for this moment of common prayer in Lund Cathedral, and with it we begin the commemoration of 500 years of the Reformation. 50 years of uninterrupted and fruitful ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans have helped us overcome many differences and have deepened our mutual understanding and trust. At the same time, we have come closer to each other through common service to our fellow human beings, often in situations of suffering and persecution. Through dialogue and shared witness, we are no longer strangers. Rather, we have learned that what connects us is greater than what divides.

From conflict to community

While we are deeply grateful for the spiritual and theological gifts we received through the Reformation, we confess and lament before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church. Theological differences were accompanied by prejudice and conflict, and religion was instrumentalized for political ends. Our shared faith in Jesus Christ and our baptism require us to repent every day as we put aside the historical differences and conflicts that hinder the ministry of reconciliation. While the past cannot be changed, what you remember and how you remember can be changed. We pray for the healing of our wounds and memories that obscure one another. We firmly reject all past and present hatred and violence, especially those in the name of religion. Today we hear God's command to resolve any conflict. We recognize that we are freed by grace to move to the community to which God is continually calling us.

Our commitment to common witness

As we leave behind these incidents of history that weigh us down, we commit ourselves to jointly bear witness to God's merciful grace, which was evident in the crucified and risen Christ. Aware that the way we relate to one another shapes our gospel testimony, we commit ourselves to grow in the fellowship that is rooted in baptism as we strive to overcome remaining obstacles to eliminate that are holding us back from attaining full oneness. Christ wants us to be one so that the world may believe (cf. Joh 17,21).

Many members of our communities long to receive the Eucharist in one meal as a concrete expression of full unity. We experience the pain of all those who share their whole life but cannot share God's redeeming presence in the Eucharistic meal. We recognize our common pastoral responsibility to meet the spiritual hunger and thirst of our people to be one in Christ. We long for this wound in the body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavors. We want them to move forward, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue.

We pray to God that Catholics and Lutherans will be able to jointly testify to the gospel of Jesus Christ by inviting humanity to hear and receive the good news of God's saving acts. We ask God for inspiration, encouragement and strength so that we can stand together in service and thus stand up for the dignity and rights of people, especially the poor, work for justice and reject all forms of violence. God calls us to be close to all those who long for dignity, justice, peace and reconciliation. In a special way today we raise our voices for an end to the violence and extremism that affect so many countries and communities as well as countless sisters and brothers in Christ. We urge that Lutherans and Catholics work together to take in the stranger, come to the aid of those forced to flee because of war and persecution, and defend the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

More than ever, we find that our common service in this world must extend to God's creation, which is marred by exploitation and the effects of insatiable greed. We recognize the right of future generations to enjoy God's earth in all its richness and beauty. We ask for a change of heart and mind that will lead us to a loving and responsible way of caring for creation.

One in Christ

On this happy occasion, we express our gratitude to the brothers and sisters who represent the various Christian world communities and associations who are present and who join us in prayer. When we re-commit to moving from conflict to fellowship, we are doing so as part of the one body of Christ into which we are all incorporated through baptism. We urge our ecumenical partners to remind us of our commitments and to encourage us. We ask you to keep praying for us, to go with us and to support us in bringing to life the commitment we have prayed through and which we show every day.

Appeal to Catholics and Lutherans worldwide

We appeal to all Lutheran and Catholic congregations and communities to be fearless and creative, joyful and hopeful of their resolve to continue the great journey that lies ahead. More than past conflicts, God's gift of unity will guide cooperation and deepen our solidarity among us. By drawing closer in faith in Christ, by praying with one another, by listening to one another and living Christ's love in our relationships, we, Catholics and Lutherans, open ourselves to the power of the Triune God. Rooted in and witnessing to Christ, we renew our choice to be faithful messengers of God's boundless love for all humanity.