Pope ‘grateful to God’ for Vatican conference
on Martin Luther
Pope Francis on Friday greeted participants in a conference promoted by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, entitled “Luther: 500 Years Later: A rereading of the Lutheran Reformation in its historic ecclesial context", which took place in Rome from 29 to 31 March 2017.
The Pope expressed his gratitude to God for the event, calling it a “working of the Holy Spirit”. Gratitude to God and surprise, Pope Francis said, were his first responses upon hearing of the conference on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther presenting his 95 theses.
He called the initiative promoted by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences “praiseworthy” and said, “not long ago a meeting like this would have been unthinkable.”
“Truly we are experiencing the results of the working of the Holy Spirit,” the Pope said, “who overcomes every obstacle and turns conflicts into occasions for growth in communion.”
He notes that the title of the joint document commemorating the fifth centenary of Luther’s reform is “From Conflict to Communion”.
Pope Francis went on to say he is “happy” such an historical event has given scholars an opportunity to “study those events together”.
“Serious research into the figure of Luther and his critique of the Church of his time and the papacy certainly contributes to overcoming the atmosphere of mutual distrust and rivalry that for all too long marked relations between Catholics and Protestants,” he said.
The Holy Father said “an attentive and rigorous study, free of prejudice and polemics” is the correct way to find “all that was positive and legitimate in the Reformation, while distancing themselves from errors, extremes and failures, and acknowledging the sins that led to the division.”
He said “the past cannot be changed”, but “it is possible to engage in a purification of memory”, that is, to “tell that history differently”.
In conclusion, Pope Francis offered his prayers for the successful outcome of the conference, inviting all to “offer one another forgiveness for the sin committed by those who have gone before us and together to implore from God the gift of reconciliation and unity.”
Pope: ‘Human trafficking worsening due to lack of real commitment’
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis told a Vienna “Trafficking in Persons” conference on Monday it is time to put an end to the “worsening tragedy” of child trafficking and slavery.
The Pope’s words came in a message read out by Fr. Michael Czerny, SJ, Under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)’s “17th Alliance against Trafficking in Persons Conference.”
In his message to the OSCE conference on trafficking in children, Pope Francis called the problem “a form of slavery, a crime against humanity, a grave violation of human rights, and an atrocious scourge”.
“Today’s complex migration scenario is sadly characterized by ‘[…] new forms of slavery imposed by criminal organizations, which buy and sell men, women and children,” the message read.
He said human trafficking is “worsening” and that, in some instances, “evidence brings one to doubt the real commitment of some important players.”
Repeating his words in 2014 during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Pope said, “All too many children continue to be exploited, maltreated, enslaved, prey to violence and illicit trafficking. Still too many children live in exile, as refugees, at times lost at sea, particularly in the waters of the Mediterranean. Today, in acknowledging this, we feel shame before God.”
The conference is promoting the three P’s for effective action against trafficking (to prevent, to protect, and to prosecute), to which Pope Francis added a fourth: “to partner”.
Speaking about the goal of prevention, he said, “It should be acknowledged that very little has been done to address the “why” of many young people being tricked or sold into trafficking and slavery.”
He said, “Demand and supply, in turn, are deeply rooted in the three great issues of conflicts and wars, economic privation and natural disasters, or what the victims experience as extreme poverty, underdevelopment, exclusion, unemployment and lack of access to education.”
Protection against human trafficking, the Pope said, begins with protection of the family.
He said the “ultimate objective” is “the best interests of the child, in which the family dimension occupies a place of greatest importance.”
“Protection of children requires the protection of families; therefore, policies and programs must provide families with the essential tools to protect and nurture their children in situations of vulnerability. Among these essentials – all well within reach of OSCE member-states – are decent housing, healthcare, the opportunity to work, education…”
LWF President and the Pope sign Agreement
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and Bishop Mounib Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation signed a Joint Statement on Monday in which Catholics and Lutherans pledged to pursue their dialogue in order to remove the remaining obstacles that hinder them from reaching full unity. They also stressed their commitment to common witness on behalf of the poor, the needy and the victims of injustice. The Declaration was signed during the ecumenical prayer service held in Lund’s Lutheran Cathedral on the first day of the Pope’s visit to Sweden.
on the occasion of the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation
Lund, 31 October 2016
«Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me» (John 15:4).
With thankful hearts
With this Joint Statement, we express joyful gratitude to God for this moment of common prayer in the Cathedral of Lund, as we begin the year commemorating the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. Fifty years of sustained and fruitful ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans have helped us to overcome many differences, and have deepened our mutual understanding and trust. At the same time, we have drawn closer to one another through joint service to our neighbours – often in circumstances of suffering and persecution. Through dialogue and shared witness we are no longer strangers. Rather, we have learned that what unites us is greater than what divides us.
Moving from conflict to communion
While we are profoundly thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, we also confess and lament before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church. Theological differences were accompanied by prejudice and conflicts, and religion was instrumentalized for political ends. Our common faith in Jesus Christ and our baptism demand of us a daily conversion, by which we cast off the historical disagreements and conflicts that impede the ministry of reconciliation. While the past cannot be changed, what is remembered and how it is remembered can be transformed. We pray for the healing of our wounds and of the memories that cloud our view of one another. We emphatically reject all hatred and violence, past and present, especially that expressed in the name of religion. Today, we hear God’s command to set aside all conflict. We recognize that we are freed by grace to move towards the communion to which God continually calls us.
Our commitment to common witness
As we move beyond those episodes in history that burden us, we pledge to witness together to God’s merciful grace, made visible in the crucified and risen Christ. Aware that the way we relate to one another shapes our witness to the Gospel, we commit ourselves to further growth in communion rooted in Baptism, as we seek to remove the remaining obstacles that hinder us from attaining full unity. Christ desires that we be one, so that the world may believe (cf. John 17:21).
Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table, as the concrete expression of full unity. We experience the pain of those who share their whole lives, but cannot share God’s redeeming presence at the Eucharistic table. We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger 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 endeavours, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue.
We pray to God that Catholics and Lutherans will be able to witness together to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, inviting humanity to hear and receive the good news of God’s redeeming action. We pray to God for inspiration, encouragement and strength so that we may stand together in service, upholding human dignity and rights, especially for the poor, working for justice, and rejecting all forms of violence. God summons us to be close to all those who yearn for dignity, justice, peace and reconciliation. Today in particular, we raise our voices for an end to the violence and extremism which affect so many countries and communities, and countless sisters and brothers in Christ. We urge Lutherans and Catholics to work together to welcome the stranger, to come to the aid of those forced to flee because of war and persecution, and to defend the rights of refugees and those who seek asylum.
More than ever before, we realize that our joint service in this world must extend to God’s creation, which suffers exploitation and the effects of insatiable greed. We recognize the right of future generations to enjoy God’s world in all its potential and beauty. We pray for a change of hearts and minds that leads to a loving and responsible way to care for creation.
One in Christ
On this auspicious occasion, we express our gratitude to our brothers and sisters representing the various Christian World Communions and Fellowships who are present and join us in prayer. As we recommit ourselves to move from conflict to communion, we do so as part of the one Body of Christ, into which we are incorporated through Baptism. We invite our ecumenical partners to remind us of our commitments and to encourage us. We ask them to continue to pray for us, to walk with us, to support us in living out the prayerful commitments we express today.
Calling upon Catholics and Lutherans worldwide
We call upon all Lutheran and Catholic parishes and communities to be bold and creative, joyful and hopeful in their commitment to continue the great journey ahead of us. Rather than conflicts of the past, God’s gift of unity among us shall guide cooperation and deepen our solidarity. By drawing close in faith to Christ, by praying together, by listening to one another, by living Christ’s love in our relationships, we, Catholics and Lutherans, open ourselves to the power of the Triune God. Rooted in Christ and witnessing to him, we renew our determination to be faithful heralds of God’s boundless love for all humanity.