Pope Francis received an ecumenical delegation from Finland on January 19 and said that 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, is “for Catholics and Lutherans a privileged occasion to live the faith more authentically, in order to rediscover the Gospel together, and to seek and witness to Christ with renewed vigor.”
The Scandinavian nation of 5.5 million is 74% Lutheran.
“The intention of Martin Luther 500 years ago was to renew the Church, not divide her,” the Pope said, as he stressed the importance of theological dialogue. He also expressed hope that by the Holy Spirit’s action, “we will be able to find further convergence on points of doctrine and the moral teaching of the Church, and will be able to draw ever closer to full and visible unity.”
Pope Francis sent US President Donald Trump his greetings, and an assurance of his prayers, on his Inauguration day.
The Pope voiced his hope that Trump would be “guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people,” and said that the country’s success should be “measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast, and those in need..”
The full text of the papal message:
Upon your inauguration as the 45th President of the United States of America, I offer you my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office.
At a time when our human family is beset by grave humanitarian crises demanding far-sighted and united political responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide. Under your leadership, may America’s stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door.
With these sentiments, I ask the Lord to grant you and your family, and all the beloved American people, his blessings of peace, concord and every material and spiritual prosperity.
The president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity rated 2016 as a “truly ecumenical year” as he looked forward to the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Cardinal Kurt Koch told Vatican Radio that the theme for this year’s observance, which focuses on reconciliation, was chosen by Christians in Germany. The theme is appropriate, he said, as the world marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The cardinal remarked that the visit by Pope Francis to Sweden, to join in a commemoration of the Reformation, was made possible by the ecumenical dialogues of recent years, in particular the Joint Declaration on Justification signed by Catholic and Lutheran leaders in 1999.
Cardinal Koch remarked, however, that the Protestant Reformation is not the only split in Christendom. He encouraged prayers for reconciliation with the Christians who broke with Rome after the Council of Chalcedon, with Anglicans, and with the Orthodox churches. Regarding ecumenical ties with the Orthodox, he saw the Pope’s meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill as “a very important sign.”