Pope Francis urges Spirit-centered cooperation between Catholics, Lutherans

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In an address Monday to a delegation of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pope Francis encouraged ongoing ecumenism between Catholics and Lutherans.

Referencing efforts such as “various joint prayers” and “many ecumenical meetings,” Francis observed an increased inclination toward Christian cooperation during the past year. He also emphasized its importance.

“It is increasingly becoming a necessity and a desire,” he said.

The pope expressed gratitude for the communal Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Francis spoke positively of the commemoration's outcomes, which he said created productive conversation around points of division and differences between the communities. He called for a thorough and honest continuation of these topics.

“Let us support one another in the journey, also by carrying forward theological dialogue,” he said. “No ecumenical dialogue can advance if we remain still.”

Several topics he thought warranted thoughtful, joint deliberation were “the Church, the Eucharist and the ecclesial ministry.”

Ecumenism must “start from prayer,” he said, so that collaboration centers on the purpose to which the Spirit calls us, rather than human intentions and agendas.

“The Spirit of love cannot but drive us on the paths of charity,” Francis said.

Beginning with prayer and guidance from God, he said, “the steps to be taken” in order to continue this peaceful and fruitful conversation will be revealed to us.

The pope also highlighted outreach to the persecuted and the needy as a function of ecumenism.

Those suffering because of their faith need the support of all Christians, he said. Collaborative endeavors among communities is necessary to provide complete support for them.

Evidence of suffering, Francis said, is a “pressing invitation to reach an ever more concrete and visible unity among us.” He called this concept “the ecumenism of blood.”

Including all of humanity in outreach is also key in these church-uniting activities, he said. There should be no exclusion of any one person in the mission to love Christ and live for him. All are called “to involve as many brothers and sisters as possible in the faith, growing as a community of disciples who pray, love and proclaim.”

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