the official logo of the trip
“Good morning to all of you. I thank you for your company and for your work. This voyage is an important one because it is an ecclesial voyage, very ecclesial in the ecumenical sphere. Your work will help many people to understand it, so that people can understand it well. Thank you very much.”
— Francis aboard the flight from Rome to Malmö —
— Francis aboard the flight from Rome to Malmö —
Lutheran ‘bishop’ Munib Younan, earlier this year, presents Francis with cross at the Vatican after a meeting. This cross is to become the official logo of Francis’ trip to Sweden.
- From Conflict to Communion | Lutheran–Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017 Document
Lutheran ‘bishop’ Munib Younan and Francis after signing the ‘Official Joint Statement
on the occasion of the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation’
Francis and female Lutheran ‘bishop’ Antje Jackelén admire the official logo.
Getting the party started at the Lutheran Cathedral of Lund
“Abide in me as I abide in you” (Jn 15:4). These words, spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper, allow us to peer into the heart of Christ just before his ultimate sacrifice on the cross. We can feel his heart beating with love for us and his desire for the unity of all who believe in him. He tells us that he is the true vine and that we are the branches, that just as he is one with the Father, so we must be one with him if we wish to bear fruit.
Here in Lund, at this prayer service, we wish to manifest our shared desire to remain one with Christ, so that we may have life. We ask him, “Lord, help us by your grace to be more closely united to you and thus, together, to bear a more effective witness of faith, hope and love”. This is also a moment to thank God for the efforts of our many brothers and sisters from different ecclesial communities who refused to be resigned to division, but instead kept alive the hope of reconciliation among all who believe in the one Lord.
As Catholics and Lutherans, we have undertaken a common journey of reconciliation. Now, in the context of the commemoration of the Reformation of 1517, we have a new opportunity to accept a common path, one that has taken shape over the past fifty years in the ecumenical dialogue between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. Nor can we be resigned to the division and distance that our separation has created between us. 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.
Jesus tells us that the Father is the “vinedresser” (cf. v. 1) who tends and prunes the vine in order to make it bear more fruit (cf. v. 2). The Father is constantly concerned for our relationship with Jesus, to see if we are truly one with him (cf. v. 4). He watches over us, and his gaze of love inspires us to purify our past and to work in the present to bring about the future of unity that he so greatly desires.
We too must look with love and honesty at our past, recognizing error and seeking forgiveness, for God alone is our judge. We ought to recognize with the same honesty and love that our division distanced us from the primordial intuition of God’s people, who naturally yearn to be one, and that it was perpetuated historically by the powerful of this world rather than the faithful people, which always and everywhere needs to be guided surely and lovingly by its Good Shepherd. Certainly, there was a sincere will on the part of both sides to profess and uphold the true faith, but at the same time we realize that we closed in on ourselves out of fear or bias with regard to the faith which others profess with a different accent and language. As Pope John Paul II said, “We must not allow ourselves to be guided by the intention of setting ourselves up as judges of history but solely by the motive of understanding better what happened and of becoming messengers of truth” (Letter to Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, President of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, 31 October 1983). God is the vinedresser, who with immense love tends and protects the vine; let us be moved by his watchful gaze. The one thing he desires is for us to abide like living branches in his Son Jesus. With this new look at the past, we do not claim to realize an impracticable correction of what took place, but “to tell that history differently” (LUTHERAN-ROMAN CATHOLIC COMMISSION ON UNITY, From Conflict to Communion, 17 June 2013, 16).
Jesus reminds us: “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (v. 5). He is the one who sustains us and spurs us on to find ways to make our unity ever more visible. Certainly, our separation has been an immense source of suffering and misunderstanding, yet it has also led us to recognize honestly that without him we can do nothing; in this way it has enabled us to understand better some aspects of our faith. With gratitude we acknowledge that the Reformation helped give greater centrality to sacred Scripture in the Church’s life. Through shared hearing of the word of God in the Scriptures, important steps forward have been taken in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, whose fiftieth anniversary we are presently celebrating. Let us ask the Lord that his word may keep us united, for it is a source of nourishment and life; without its inspiration we can do nothing.
The spiritual experience of Martin Luther challenges us to remember that apart from God we can do nothing. “How can I get a propitious God?” This is the question that haunted Luther. In effect, the question of a just relationship with God is the decisive question for our lives. As we know, Luther encountered that propitious God in the Good News of Jesus, incarnate, dead and risen. With the concept “by grace alone”, he reminds us that God always takes the initiative, prior to any human response, even as he seeks to awaken that response. The doctrine of justification thus expresses the essence of human existence before God.
Jesus intercedes for us as our mediator before the Father; he asks him that his disciples may be one, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This is what comforts us and inspires us to be one with Jesus, and thus to pray: “Grant us the gift of unity, so that the world may believe in the power of your mercy”. This is the testimony the world expects from us. We Christians will be credible witnesses of mercy to the extent that forgiveness, renewal and reconciliation are daily experienced in our midst. Together we can proclaim and manifest God’s mercy, concretely and joyfully, by upholding and promoting the dignity of every person. Without this service to the world and in the world, Christian faith is incomplete.
As Lutherans and Catholics, we pray together in this Cathedral, conscious that without God we can do nothing. We ask his help, so that we can be living members, abiding in him, ever in need of his grace, so that together we may bring his word to the world, which so greatly needs his tender love and mercy.
Ecumenical event in Malmö Arena in Malmö
I thank God for this joint commemoration of the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. We remember this anniversary with a renewed spirit and in the recognition that Christian unity is a priority, because we realize that much more unites us than separates us. The journey we have undertaken to attain that unity is itself a great gift that God gives us. With his help, today we have gathered here, Lutherans and Catholics, in a spirit of fellowship, to direct our gaze to the one Lord, Jesus Christ.
Our dialogue has helped us to grow in mutual understanding; it has fostered reciprocal trust and confirmed our desire to advance towards full communion. One of the fruits of this dialogue has been cooperation between different organizations of the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. Thanks to this new atmosphere of understanding, Caritas Internationalis and the Lutheran World Federation World Service will today sign a joint agreed statement aimed at developing and strengthening a spirit of cooperation for the promotion of human dignity and social justice. I warmly greet the members of both organizations; in a world torn by wars and conflicts, they have been, and continue to be, a luminous example of commitment and service to neighbour. I encourage you to advance along the path of cooperation.
I have listened closely to those who gave the witness talks, how amid so many challenges they daily devote their lives to building a world increasingly responsive to the plan of God, our Father. Pranita talked about creation. Clearly, creation itself is a sign of God’s boundless love for us. Consequently, the gifts of nature can themselves lead us to contemplate God. I share your concern about the abuses harming our planet, our common home, and causing grave effects on the climate. As we say in our land, in my land: “In the end, it is the poor who pay for our great festivity”. As you rightly mentioned, their greatest impact is on those who are most vulnerable and needy; they are forced to emigrate in order to escape the effects of climate change. All of us, and we Christians in particular, are responsible for protecting creation. Our lifestyle and our actions must always be consistent with our faith. We are called to cultivate harmony within ourselves and with others, but also with God and with his handiwork. Pranita, I encourage you to persevere in your commitment on behalf of our common home. Thank you!
Mgr Héctor Fabio told us of the joint efforts being made by Catholics and Lutherans in Colombia. It is good to know that Christians are working together to initiate communitarian and social processes of common interest. I ask you to pray in a special way for that great country, so that, through the cooperation of all, peace, so greatly desired and necessary for a worthy human coexistence, can finally be achieved. And because the human heart, when it looks to Jesus, knows no limits, may it be a prayer that goes further, embracing all those countries where grave conflicts continue.
Marguerite made us aware of efforts to help children who are victims of atrocities and to work for peace. This is both admirable and a summons to take seriously the countless situations of vulnerability experienced by so many persons who have no way to speak out. What you consider a mission has been a seed, a seed that has borne abundant fruit, and today, thanks to that seed, thousands of children can study, grow and enjoy good health. You invested on the future! Thank you! And I am grateful that even now, in exile, you continue to spread a message of peace. You said that everybody who knows you thinks that what you are doing is crazy. Of course, it is the craziness of love for God and our neighbour. We need more of this craziness, illuminated by faith and confidence in God’s providence. Keep working, and may that voice of hope that you heard at the beginning of your adventure and your investment on the future, continue to move your own heart and the hearts of many young people.
Rose, the youngest, gave us a truly moving testimony. She was able to profit from the talent God gave her through sport. Instead of wasting her energy on adverse situations, she found fulfilment in a fruitful life. While I was listening to your story, I thought of the lives of so many young people who need to hear stories like yours. I would like everyone to know that they can discover how wonderful it is to be children of God and what privilege it is to be loved and cherished by him. Rose, I thank you from the heart for your efforts and your commitment to encouraging other young women to go back to school, and for the fact that you pray daily for peace in the young state of South Sudan, which so greatly needs it.
And after hearing these powerful witnesses, which make us think of our own lives and how we respond to situations of need all around us, I would like to thank all those governments that assist refugees, all the governments that help displaced persons and asylum-seekers. For everything done to help these persons in need of protection is a great gesture of solidarity and a recognition of their dignity. For us Christians, it is a priority to go out and meet the outcasts – for they are truly cast out of their homelands – and the marginalized of our world, and to make felt the tender and merciful love of God, who rejects no one and accepts everyone. We Christians are called today to be active players in the revolution of tenderness.
Shortly we will hear the testimony of Bishop Antoine, who lives in Aleppo, a city brought to its knees by war, a place where even the most fundamental rights are treated with contempt and trampled underfoot. Each day the news tells us about the unspeakable suffering caused by the Syrian conflict, by that conflict in our beloved Syria, which has now lasted more than five years. In the midst of so much devastation, it is truly heroic that men and women have remained there in order to offer material and spiritual assistance to those in need. It is admirable too, that you, dear brother Antoine, continue working amid such danger in order to tell us of the tragic situation of the Syrian people. Every one of them is in our hearts and prayers. Let us implore the grace of heartfelt conversion for those responsible for the fate of the world, of that region and for all those who are intervening there.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not become discouraged in the face of adversity. May the stories, the testimonies we have heard, motivate us and give us new impetus to work ever more closely together. When we return home, may we bring with us a commitment to make daily gestures of peace and reconciliation, to be valiant and faithful witnesses of Christian hope. And as we know, hope does not disappoint us! Thank you!