From Conflict to Communion: Together in Hope
Joint Lutheran-Catholic Service
This year marks the first centennial anniversary of the Reformation in the ecumenical age.
On October 31, 2016, Lutherans and Catholics came together to inaugurate this commemor-
ation, launching the 500th anniversary year. The world looked on in wonder as His Holiness
Pope Francis and Lutheran World Federation President Bishop Munib Younan and General
Secretary Martin Junge led a service of common prayer, and a joint statement was signed.
A public stadium event highlighted inspiring partnerships in tending to a world broken by
violence, conflict, and ecological destruction. Together, these events offered the world a new
kind of centennial between Catholics and Lutherans: one of thanksgiving, repentance, and a
commitment to joint witness and service.
Importantly, this centennial reflects the progress of fifty years of theological dialogue since the
Second Vatican Council. On the global level, and here in the United States, this dialogue has
fostered mutual understanding, common ways of speaking about our history and each other,
greater clarity about the remaining differences, and a reinforced commitment to reconciling our
unity in Christ. The most significant milestone in this journey to date was the signing of the Joint
Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) by the Catholic Church and The Lutheran
World Federation in 1999.
The Joint Commemoration last October 31 communicated its message in its title: “From Conflict
to Communion – Together in Hope.” From Conflict to Communion is also the name of a report
from by the international Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity which tells the history
of the Reformation for the first time from a joint perspective and so reminds us, in view of 2017,
that “Lutherans and Catholics have many reasons to retell their history in new ways.”
Today we take our place in this unfolding history: together we give thanks for the faithful wit- ness we have all received through the Reformation, we repent of the divisive wrongs we have done each other, and we make common commitments to grow in communion. This service of common prayer, also under the heading “From Conflict to Communion – Together in Hope,” links Lutherans and Catholics in the United States to the global observance, as well as to other commemorations in diverse contexts in this country and around the world. Similarly, the presence of ecumenical representatives on this occasion is an encouragement for all Christians as we journey on the way to the full reconciliation and healing of the body of Christ.
For all of this, we give thanks to God.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ!
Welcome to this ecumenical prayer, which commemorates the 500 years of the reformation.
For over 50 years Lutherans and Catholics have been on a journey from conflict to communion.
With joy, we have come to recognize that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.
On this journey, mutual understanding and trust have grown.
So it is possible for us to gather today. We come with different thoughts and feelings of thanksgiving and lament, joy and repentance, joy in the gospel and sorrow for division.
We gather to commemorate in remembrance, in thanksgiving and confession, and in common witness and commitment.
Let us now commit to the Five Ecumenical Imperatives:
1: Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division, in order
to strengthen what is held in common, even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.
2: Lutherans and Catholics must let themselves continuously be transformed by the encounter with the other and by the mutual
witness of faith.
3: Catholics and Lutherans should again commit themselves to seek visible unity, to elaborate together what this means in
concrete steps, and to strive repeatedly toward this goal.
4: Lutherans and Catholics should jointly rediscover the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ for our time.
5: Catholics and Lutherans should witness together to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world.