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Monday, January 24, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 24 JAN 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a group from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, who have come to Rome for the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

  Addressing the group in German, the Holy Father recalled how dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans began fifty years ago and how, despite the fact that theological differences persist in certain fundamental fields, great progress has been made towards unity, and the foundations laid for a spirituality and communion experienced in the faith.

  At the present time, the Pope remarked, some people feel that the goal of full and visible unity among Christians seems to be getting further away. In this context he noted that he shared the concern of many Christians that the fruits of ecumenical efforts are not sufficiently visible. Nonetheless, he went on, ecumenical dialogue under the guidance of the Holy Spirit continues to be a fundamental instrument for overcoming obstacles, and he reaffirmed the important contribution of theological debate to help understand outstanding questions.

  Benedict XVI also spoke of the need for a shared position on questions concerning the defence and dignity of human beings, and on the great issues that regard the family, marriage and sexuality.

  Finally, he pointed out that 2017 will mark the five-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Martin Luther's 'Theses', which gave rise to the division between Catholics and Lutherans. In this context, he insisted that for both sides the commemoration should be characterised not by triumphalism but by an ecumenism which highlights the shared faith in the One and Triune God. That date will also be an opportunity to reflect on the causes of division and to undertake a purification of heart. At the same time, the Pope continued, it will be an occasion to evaluate the 1500 years that preceded the Reform, the patrimony of which is shared by both Catholics and Lutherans.

  The Holy Father concluded by calling for prayers to the Holy Spirit for help in continuing the journey towards unity, without resting on the laurels of what has already been achieved.
AC/                                    VIS 20110124 (370)

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