Vatican City, 22 January 2015 (VIS) – “The fact that you come here together is itself a witness to the importance of efforts for unity. The fact that you pray together is a witness to our belief that only through the grace of God can that unity be achieved. The fact that you recite the Creed together is a witness to the one common faith of the whole of Christianity”. St. John Paul II addressed these words to the first Finnish ecumenical delegation of the Lutheran Church to come to Rome thirty years ago, and this morning, Pope Francis repeated them to the delegation present today on their annual ecumenical pilgrimage to celebrate the feast of St. Henry of Uppsala, the patron of Finland. The Pope mentioned that this year the visit coincides with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, to reflect this year on Jesus' words to the Samaritan woman at the well: “Give me to drink”.
“We are reminded that the source of all grace is the Lord himself, and that His gifts transform those who receive them, making them witnesses to the true life that is in Him alone”, said the Holy Father. “As the Gospel tells us, many Samaritans believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony. As you, Bishop Vikstrom, have said, there is so much that Catholics and Lutherans can do together to bear witness to God’s mercy in our societies. A shared Christian witness is very much needed in the face of the mistrust, insecurity, persecution, pain and suffering experienced so widely in today’s world”.
He continued, “This common witness can be sustained and encouraged by progress in theological dialogue between the Churches. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine on Justification, which was solemnly signed some fifteen years ago between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, can produce further fruits of reconciliation and cooperation between us. The Nordic Lutheran–Catholic dialogue in Finland and Sweden, under the related theme Justification in the Life of the Church, has been reflecting on important questions deriving from the Joint Declaration. Let us hope that further convergence will emerge from that dialogue on the concept of the Church, the sign and instrument of the salvation brought to us in Jesus Christ”.