Lutheran leaders invite Pope to play a part in their 500th anniversary
The Lutheran World Federation invited recently Pope Benedict XVI to be involved in preparations for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
LWF president Bishop Munib Younan, along with a seven-member delegation, invited Benedict during their papal audience in the Vatican. Younan said he hoped that by 2017, the LWF anniversary year, they can issue a joint statement on the doctrine of Holy Communion, The Christian Century reported.
According to The Christian Century, prior to the meeting Younan said, “Our intention is to arrive at 2017 with a common Roman Catholic-Lutheran declaration on Eucharistic hospitality.”
Younan said under such an agreement, Lutherans would be able to receive communion at a Catholic mass, and Catholics would also be able to receive communion at Lutheran services, The Christian Century said.
During the papal audience Younan invited Benedict “to work together with us in preparing this anniversary, so that in 2017 we are closer to sharing in the Bread of Life than we are today,” Vatican Radio reported.
Younan said to the pope, “[W]e intend our anniversary to be ecumenically accountable: to recognise both damaging aspects of the Reformation and ecumenical progress since the last major Reformation anniversary. But we cannot achieve this ecumenical accountability on our own, without your help,” Christian Today reported.
According to Vatican Radio, Benedict lauded the “many significant fruits” that were borne through Catholic-Lutheran talks, which have been ongoing for decades. Benedict said, “Catholics and Lutherans are called to reflect anew on where our journey towards unity has led us and to implore the Lord’s guidance and help for the future.”
Although Benedict did not talk about a Eucharist agreement, he said, “It is my hope that these ecumenical activities will provide fresh opportunities for Catholics and Lutherans to grow closer in their lives, their witness to the gospel, and their efforts to bring the light of Christ to all dimensions of society,” The Christian Century reported.
The LWF and the Roman Catholic churches issued in 1999 a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which deals with the doctrines of salvation and forgiveness, Christian Today said.
A part of the statement said, “We…share the conviction that the message of justification directs us in a special way towards the heart of the New Testament witness to God’s saving action in Christ: It tells us that as sinners our new life is solely due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts as a gift and we receive in faith, and never can merit in any way,” Christian Today reported.
Second Vatican Council
However, whether or not a common view of the Eucharist can be reached is another matter. According to The Christian Century, Catholic doctrine forbids bilateral Communion, and the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) determined that Protestants “did not keep the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery.”
Younan said in his message, “While we rejoice in each small step which brings us closer together, we do not want to be content with these steps,” Christian Today reported.
The LWF has a membership of over 70 million Christians from 145 member churches spread out through 79 countries, Christian Today said.