An important ecumenical sign

Anders Arborelius, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm (left) and Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of the Church of Sweden (Lutheran). Photos: Catholic Diocese of Stockholm / LWF/H. Putsman

Swedish Catholic Bishop Arborelius and Lutheran Archbishop Jackelén say joint commemoration strengthens hope

On 31 October 2016, The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Catholic Church will hold joint events in Lund and Malmö, Sweden, to commemorate the 500 years of the Reformation. In the following article, Swedish Catholic Bishop Anders Arborelius and Church of Sweden (Lutheran) Archbishop Antje Jackelén explain how the forthcoming events in the city of Lund and Malmö Arena contribute to strengthening ecumenical relations and joint service in the world.


Joint article by Bishop Arborelius and Archbishop Jackelén

Nearly 50 years of dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans continue to bear fruit. In 1999 the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed. It stated that the most polarizing issue --justification---since the Reformation was no longer dividing the two church traditions.

Fourteen years later came a report with a promising title, From Conflict to Communion. For the first time in 500 years, the publication in 2013 presents a common account of history, a picture of what disconnected the two traditions, what no longer is, and what still separates us.

The report culminates in five joint commitments or imperatives, of which the paramount call is for Catholics and Lutherans to come together in words and actions that will bear witness to the grace of God in the world.

This preparatory work has paved the way for an event in Sweden that has every possibility to become historic. On 31 October, the 499th anniversary of what is commonly recognized as the beginning of the Reformation, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) will jointly commemorate the Reformation.

Pope Francis and the leadership of the LWF are not guests but rather hosts of the commemoration, to be held in the Swedish towns of Lund and Malmö.

Pope Francis, LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge will lead a joint church service in Lund Cathedral that will be celebrated simultaneously at Malmö Arena where the Pope, together with LWF leadership and other ecumenical guests, will join under theme "Together in Hope."

The arena event emphasizes the way in which Christians from different traditions around the world can and must testify to the world about God's mercy.

We will do this in word and deed. As a concrete sign of the intention of the Catholic aid organization Caritas Internationalis and LWF World Service to forge closer ties, a joint memorandum will be signed.

The concept of being united by baptism promises that we gather with many international guests on global challenges such as poverty, climate change and migration in order to bring us together and to strengthen hope.

To the delight of Catholics in Sweden and neighboring countries, the Pope has decided to stay one more day to celebrate Mass on 1 November. While communion is not yet an established reality between Roman Catholics and Lutherans, there are many who anticipate it. It is our prayer that the joint commemoration on 31 October and 1 November will be a sign of ecumenical development and promise.

However, this is not self-evident. On the path of ecumenism, obstacles stand in the way, but we hope that what is now imminent gives energy to the ecumenical work in our country and that it additionally sends encouraging and hopeful signals worldwide.

Together with the Pope and the LWF, Swedish Christians have an opportunity to testify about Jesus Christ so that the world may believe (John 17:21). Let us seize this opportunity. Let us pray and work for the Gospel's sake.