Carlos M. Frota
Unity! Unity! Disunion is a scandal ! It’s a sin! I heard the appeal from within, inscribed in my personal history as a Christian and as a Catholic. And my thoughts lead me towards old times during my adolescence, when I first became aware of the contingencies of history that provoked irreparable (so far!) wounds of misunderstanding and hostility among the universal community of Christ followers.
And the old names resurface in disorder… Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII, the German princes…and more recently the mega-churches, the televangelists , one or another religious grouping playing high politics in some big countries …
We are for so long a divided family! Throughout the centuries, we build and rebuild walls within our common home, and we wounded ourselves with the sophisticated weapons of pride, arrogance, self-interest and…and political machinations.The wars of religion in Europe are the most striking example.
… good news?
Catholics and Lutherans reaffirm commitment to communion, I start reading in the website of the Vatican. And I continue:
“The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation underscore their commitment to walk together on their common journey from conflict to communion.”
I pause. From conflict to communion? A very difficult path indeed, where in every step we find those who prefer the status quo instead of advancing in the direction of the other brothers and sisters, under the pretext that we are absolutely right and they are absolutely wrong. In these conditions, starting a dialogue is never possible. But the news I am referring to are more hopeful, because here the process is much more advanced!
Again in the Vatican text: “The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation recently announced the publication of the updated Italian translation of the historic ecumenical document called the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.”
A post on the Council’s website notes that by launching the updated document on January 3rd, the day this year when Catholics and Lutherans recall the 500th anniversary of the excommunication of Martin Luther, both the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity underscored their commitment to walk together on their common journey from conflict to communion.
I read then the interview Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council, gave to Thaddeus Jones of Vatican News about the importance of this initiative.
What are the differences between Catholics and Lutherans who are debating all of them for 20 years already?
Luther insisted on the fact that we are saved by the grace of Christ: in faith. Catholics supposedly insisted that we had to do good works. This is the question that has always hung over the conflict between the Protestant Reformed Movement and the Catholic Church.
Then an agreement was reached on the Doctrine of Justification, going to the very heart of the controversies that separated Lutherans and Catholics in the 16th century.
Pope Francis in 2017 went to Lund in Sweden to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Lutheran reform – that was the time Luther supposedly pinned his 95 theses on the door of the cathedral.
Regarding the whole idea of where we are at the moment, the title of the document that the Lutheran Catholic Dialogue Commission has published for this 500th anniversary says everything : “From Conflict to Communion.”
And that’s where we are. We are on the road away from conflict towards communion.. Yes, we are in a very different place. Good news from home, then!