Pope Francis and Lutheran leader preach from same altar at Reformation commemoration

(Photo: LWF)

Pope Francis and the General Secretary of The Lutheran World Federation Rev. Martin Junge have jointly preached at the same altar in an ecumenical ceremony commemorating the Reformation 500 years ago.

The two spoke of Christ uniting Lutherans and Catholics who became estranged in 1517 after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses.

Luther posted a critique of the direction of the Catholic Church at the time to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany and this lead to the Protestant Reformation and hundreds of years of wars and tension between Catholics and Protestants.

"We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another," Francis said in his sermon in Lund on Oct. 31

"We acknowledge that there is much more that unites us than that which separates us. We are branches of the same vine. We are one in Baptism," said Junge.

The historic service, which is the first joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the Reformation at a global level, and was witnessed by 500 ecumenical guests in southern Sweden's Lund Cathedral.

Further south at the Malmö Arena meanwhile an additional 10,000 watched live.

Pope Francis met with Sweden's royal family  at the beginning of his visit to Malmo and Lund.

King Karl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia of Sweden received the Pope Francis at the king's house in Lund, ahead of an ecumenical service in Lund's Lutheran Cathedral.

The king and queen also attended the ecumenical service, which saw Pope Francis, the Lutheran Bishop of Jordan and the Holy Land and President of the Lutheran World Federation, Munib Younan, and the Rev. Martin Junge, the General Secretary of the LWF jointly leading.

Bishop Munib Younan, speaking about his own personal hopes for the visit told Vatican Radio, "We have behind us 50 years of deep dialogue between the Lutheran Church and the Catholic Church and this dialogue is built on issues and this is the reason we signed The Joint Declaration."

Younan said the commemoration consolidates that closeness which shows "we are brothers and sisters in Christ."

The Lutheran leader said, ""The division of the past must not determine our future today" and like the Pope, he emphasized the urgency of Christian unity due to  those persecuted and killed for their Christian faith in different parts of the world including the Middle East.


The LWF' World Service and Caritas Internationalis later signed a Declaration of Intent mutually committing the global Christian organizations to deepened relationships and closer cooperation in humanitarian response and sustainable development.

The signing took place at Malmö Arena, near Lund.

LWF World Service Director Maria Immonen and Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy signed the declaration as a symbol of the shared commitment to expand joint work at all levels.

"As two global Christian organizations working for human dignity and social justice, we decide to join hands in order to bring hope, witness and act together, without being exclusive. And to invite our members to engage with their counterparts and friends locally," Roy said.

Immonen described the signing as "a new beginning of increased joint action among our communities, families and our organizations. It will extend our work to reach more people and enable lives in dignity for all. Our churches are expecting this of us."

She noted, "We will actively look for opportunities to work together increasingly in countries affected by conflict and war, and where large numbers of refugees are on the move. The poor are expecting this of us. The world is expecting us to work more closely together. We need to bring hope, inspiration and faith in humanity through our work together."

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