Lutherans and Catholics: From Conflict to Communion

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From Conflict to Communion: that’s how Lutherans and Catholics are describing their ecumenical journey of the past 50 years, as they look ahead together to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

From Conflict to Communion is the name of a joint document from the Lutheran-Roman Catholic International Commission on Unity which was presented at a press conference on Monday at the Lutheran World Federation headquarters in Geneva. The lengthy text looks at the joint responsibility for the division of the Western Church in the 16th century, addressing the challenges of healing those memories and working together for reconciliation and common witness to the world.

Topics explored in the document include basic themes of Martin Luther’s theology with a view to Lutheran–Catholic dialogue, as well as focusing on five ecumenical imperatives for the relationship between both Churches as they commemorate 2017 together.On October 31st1517, German monk and theologian Martin Luther is thought to have nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg his 95 theses addressing issues that he saw as urgently in need of reform. The resulting Reformation not only divided the Protestant and Catholic Churches, but also radically challenged the role of religion in societies. 

Mgr. Matthias Turk is in charge of Lutheran-Catholic relations with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He accompanied Council President, Cardinal Kurt Koch to Geneva on Monday for a joint press conference and earlier he spoke to Philippa Hitchen about the significance of this joint document on commemorating the Reformation together: 

Listen: Lutherans and Catholics: From Conflict to Communion 

"It is a very important landmark after so many centuries of conflict and misunderstanding, leading even to wars between nations and within countries.....this is the first Reformation anniversary which can be addressed jointly, ecumenically. As Martin Junge, the General Secretary of the World Lutheran Federation has said, this commemoration will be international, it should be ecumenical and it should call us to common witness....

The reason for Church divisions are very often misunderstandings and different interpretations of the same contents of faith and theological convictions. So in our international ecumenical dialogue, we were able to rediscover the common basis we have in these questions of faith and were able to express that these are no longer Church dividing issues....

Also from our Catholic side, our own conviction is 'Ecclesia semper reformanda' - that the life of the Church has to be reformed all the time, in every age, so we have this common intention of reform on both sides....what we could do in this document is to indicate the main themes of the theology of Martin Luther in lifht of our own ecumenical dialogue, showing that many ideas of Martin Luther have been issues for the whole Church and important elements of renovation of the Church.....

This document could be a basis for all sorts of ecumenical dialogues....with other partners because it addresses the basic intention necessary reform of the Church and also addresses our own relationship with God"

The full text of the document ‘From Conflict to Communion’ is available from the German Evangelische Verlangsanstalt and Bonifatius publishing house.

Vatican Radio (June 17, 2013)