Vatican City, 4 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Pope received in audience the Lutheran archbishop of Uppsala, Sweden, Antje Jackelen, who led a delegation to the Vatican from the Evangelical-Lutheran Church. Francis greeted them cordially and commented that last year was the fiftieth anniversary of the Vatican Council II decree on ecumenism, “Unitatis Redintegratio”, which continues to be the key point of reference for the ecumenical efforts of the Catholic Church. “This document is an invitation to all Catholics to undertake the path of unity to overcome division between Christians, which is “not only openly opposed to the will of Christ, but is also a scandal to the world and damages the holiest of causes: the preaching of the Gospel to every creature”.
The decree “expresses a profound respect and appreciation for those brothers and sisters separated from us, to whom in daily coexistence we at times risk giving little consideration. In reality, they are not perceived as adversaries or as competitors, but instead acknowledged for what they are: brothers and sisters in faith. Catholics and Lutherans must seek and promote unity in dioceses, in parishes, in communities throughout the world”, the Pope emphasised, mentioning the recent document “From conflict to communion. The Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017”, published by the Lutheran-Catholic Commission for Unity. “We sincerely hope that this initiative may encourage, with God's help and collaboration between Him and among us, the achievement of further steps on the path of unity”.
The call to unity also implies “a pressing exhortation to joint commitment at the charitable level, in favour of all those who suffer in the world as a result of poverty and violence, and have a special need for our mercy; the witness of our persecuted brothers and sisters in particular drives us to grow in fraternal communion. The question of the dignity of human life, always to be respected, is of urgent relevance, as are issues regarding the family, marriage and sexuality, that may not be set aside or ignored for fear of jeopardising the ecumenical consensus already received. It would be a pity if new confessional differences were to be consolidated with regard to these important questions”.
Francis concluded his address by giving thanks first to the Swedish Lutheran Church, “for the welcome given to so many South American migrants in the times of the dictatorships, a fraternal welcome that has enabled families to grow”, and secondly, to Jackelen, “for the delicacy that you, dear sister, have had in appointing my dear friend, the pastor Anders Root: I have shared with him the chair in spiritual theology and he has helped me greatly in spiritual life”.