Luther and the Reformation – a new video resource

 — January 21, 201721 janvier 2017

Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther kicked off the Protestant Reformation, which contributed to the birth of our modern age. In this one-hour special — filmed on location in Europe — Rick Steves tells the story of a humble monk who lived a dramatic life. Rick visits key sites relating to the Reformation (including Erfurt, Wittenberg, and Rome) and explores the complicated political world of 16th-century Europe — from indulgences to iconoclasts, and from the printing press to the Counter-Reformation. It’s a story of power, rebellion, and faith that you’ll never forget.

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Unity Week: Cardinal Koch celebrates a “truly ecumenical year”

 — January 18, 201718 janvier 2017

Cardinal Kurt Koch with Rev Mounib Younan, Pope Francis and Rev Martin Junge in Lund Cathedral on October 31st, 2016. Photo: APAs we mark the annual week of prayer for Christian Unity, Catholics have much to celebrate because 2016 was “truly an ecumenical year”. That’s the view of Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who accompanied Pope Francis on all his ecumenical journeys throughout the past year.

The cardinal was reflecting on the theme for this week of prayer which is centred on a verse from St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians: ‘Reconciliation: the love of Christ compels us’. Members of the Council of Christian Churches in Germany were asked to prepare material on this theme which is set in the context of this year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Cardinal Koch says the leitmotif for this week of prayer is reconciliation, proposed by Christians in Germany, where the Reformation began. While we have much gratitude for the Reformation and the rediscovery of all that is in common between Lutherans and Catholics, he says, we must also recognise the painful history of the last 500 years. Though Luther did not want to divide the Church, he notes the “horrible confessional wars” that followed the Reformation “transformed Europe into a red sea of blood”. We must acknowledge both of these pages, he says, working for repentance and reconciliation, but also showing gratitude for the gifts of the Reformation.
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The sweet song of Christian unity

 — January 18, 201718 janvier 2017

Our Lord and his apostles used many figures of speech to describe the Church. From our beloved St. Paul: “We are God’s fellow labourers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9). “You are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). Or Jesus’ words: “Fear not, little flock” (Luke 12:32a). “I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:5a).

Many of us have admired a well-ordered cathedral, such as St. Paul’s, London, or All Saints, Nairobi. We recognise — almost unconsciously — the beauty of the human person, of a pastoral scene or vineyard. No wonder they make fitting images for the Church, the heavenly Jerusalem, a city “at unity with itself” (Ps. 122:3).

Our experience of the Church’s unity tends to fall short of these glorious figures. We see “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions” (see Gal. 5:19-21).

In recognition of this, Anglicans have turned to other images over the past 14 years: among them, “walking together in synodality,” “walking apart,” or even “walking at a distance.” This language proves useful, vividly illustrating different degrees or intensities of communion: some choose to be close; some go their own way; some wander onto the wrong path.

Through such images, we see how harmony, order, and unity are gifts received, but also unwrapped and used. A field must be cultivated, a building maintained, a vine pruned.
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Reformation Anniversary: Statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York

 — January 17, 201717 janvier 2017

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu“This year, churches around the world will be marking the great significance of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation in Europe, dated from Martin Luther’s 95 Theses protesting against the practice of indulgences, on 31 October 1517 at Wittenberg. The Church of England will be participating in various ways, including sharing in events with Protestant church partners from Continental Europe.

The Reformation was a process of both renewal and division amongst Christians in Europe. In this Reformation Anniversary year, many Christians will want to give thanks for the great blessings they have received to which the Reformation directly contributed. Amongst much else these would include clear proclamation of the gospel of grace, the availability of the Bible to all in their own language and the recognition of the calling of lay people to serve God in the world and in the church.

Many will also remember the lasting damage done five centuries ago to the unity of the Church, in defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love. Those turbulent years saw Christian people pitted against each other, such that many suffered persecution and even death at the hands of others claiming to know the same Lord. A legacy of mistrust and competition would then accompany the astonishing global spread of Christianity in the centuries that followed. All this leaves us much to ponder.
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Patience is vital in journey to shared Eucharist among all Christians

 — January 17, 201717 janvier 2017

With patience, the day will come where all Christians will share in the Eucharist. CNS photo/Gregory A. ShemitzWhile attending an ecumenical service at a Lutheran church in Rome a year ago, Pope Francis encountered a Lutheran woman who was married to a Roman Catholic. She asked the Pope why she could not receive the Eucharist while attending Catholic services with her husband.

Caught unawares by this spur-of-the-moment question, Pope Francis’ immediate reply was to suggest that the woman should follow her conscience. It was the type of pastoral response that has become a trademark of Pope Francis, but it would be a mistake to believe his intention was to introduce a new Church teaching. His pastoral response does, however, signal that ancient barriers may well be in the process of reform.

Most Roman Catholics are probably aware that Protestants should not receive communion at a Catholic celebration of the Eucharist. But few probably know the reason why. Likewise, it is also fair to suggest that Catholics attending a Protestant service are often uncertain whether it is proper to receive Eucharist in a Protestant church.

Amid this uncertainty, I suspect a common response today from both Catholics and Protestants is to feel less conscience-bound to refrain from eucharistic sharing at each other’s gatherings.
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Europe’s Catholic, Orthodox leaders say they’ll stand against terrorism

 — January 17, 201717 janvier 2017

People kneel during a 2015 Paris Mass for the 129 victims of coordinated terrorists attacks. Photo: CNS/Paul HaringCatholic and Orthodox leaders have pledged to stand together against fundamentalism and terrorism, as well as resisting forces working to erode and destroy religious belief in Europe.

“Terrorist violence against people considered unbelievers or infidels is the extreme degree of religious intolerance — we unreservedly condemn it and deplore that such acts have developed in the soil of a misguided religious culture,” the church representatives said in a joint message Jan. 13.

“The constitutions of our states guarantee the fundamental rights of the human person. Nevertheless, in our societies, forces are always at work to marginalize or even erase religions and their message from the public space. We believe Europe needs more than ever the breath of faith in Christ and the hope it provides.”

The 14-point message was published after a Jan. 9-12 meeting of the European Catholic-Orthodox Forum, co-chaired in Paris by Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, former president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, and Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

It said Catholic and Orthodox bishops deplored “crimes that may have been committed in the name of religion,” but believed their churches should not be blamed “for attitudes of intolerance that are inadmissible nowadays, but used to be shared by societies in the past.”
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Dialogue between Confessional Lutherans and Roman Catholics continues

 — November 7, 20167 novembre 2016

Participants in the October 2016 meeting of the Informal Dialogue Group of the ILC and PCPCUThird Meeting of the Informal Dialogue Group between the International Lutheran Council and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. On October 14-15, the Informal Dialogue Group between the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity met. This time the gathering took place at the Johann-Adam-Möhler-Institute for Ecumenism in Paderborn, Germany.

The conversations centered on the Lutheran perception of the Roman Catholic liturgy. They focused particularly on the Roman Catholic understanding of the presence of Christ’s sacrifice and the sacrifice of the Church in the Lord’s Supper. It became apparent that there were different ways of thinking—not only between Lutheran and Roman Catholic approaches to the topic, but also in the various Roman Catholic Eucharistic prayers themselves. The debate centered in particular on the problem whether and to what extent the Church might play a distinct, or “active”, role in the performance of the liturgy.

The next meeting is scheduled for June 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. In preparing for this meeting, cross-confessional pairings were formed. They are meant to engage with the following topics: the understanding of co-operation of the Church (“synergeia”) and sacrifice; the theological understanding of “time”, that is to say the relationship between the history of salvation and the “event” of salvation, or the issue of the realization of salvation in the liturgy; the understanding of sacrifice against the background of article 24 of the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, and in The Examination of the Council of Trent by Martin Chemnitz, looking also at the document “The Eucharist” (1978); and questions concerning the office of the ministry and ordination. Moreover, they plan to identify and describe areas of major agreement between the Roman Catholic Church and the churches in the International Lutheran Council. The resulting texts will serve to steer the further debates in the year to come, and secure the results of this informal dialogue.
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