The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017 Has Begun

The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today.

Our prayers for unity are especially fervent in 2017, the five hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation with Luther’s 95 thesis objecting to problems in the Catholic Church. Luther was a Catholic priest, monk, and theology professor who set out not to split his Church, but to reform it. But tragically, because of faults on all sides, it did come to a split.

It is great reason for rejoicing that the commemoration of 1517 is being celebrated by both Catholics and Protestants in an ecumenical spirit.

LutherThere is this, for example. LifeSiteNews reports (though they’re not too happy about it) that the Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office will be issuing a postage stamp in 2017 to commemorate Martin Luther. That’s a first.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity offers “Resources for The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and Throughout the Year 2017.” The entire resource is well worth reading. Here’s a key passage:

The Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity has worked hard to produce a shared understanding of the commemoration. Its important report, From Conflict to Communion, recognizes that both traditions approach this anniversary in an ecumenical age, with the achievements of fifty years of dialogue behind them, and with new understandings of their own history and theology. Separating that which is polemical from the theological insights of the Reformation, Catholics are now able to hear Luther’s challenge for the Church of today, recognizing him as a “witness to the gospel” (From Conflict to Communion 29). And so after centuries of mutual condemnations and vilification, in 2017 Lutheran and Catholic Christians will for the first time commemorate together the beginning of the Reformation.

Catholic recognition of Luther as a “witness to the gospel” is also reason for rejoicing.

Let us give thanks for the Second Vatican Council, which has opened new pathways and made possible the ecumenical progress of the last half century. And let us not stop where we are now, much less where we were when Unitatis redintegratio was issued in 1964.

As Pope Francis said, when asked about Lutheran participation in Catholic Communion:

Talk to the Lord and go forward.

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11 comments

  1. It is with great joy that our beloved Roman Catholic Church has finally embraced her son, Fr Martin, as he tried to be a prophetic voice in the 16c to bring to light the abuses that faced the Church of his day.
    Luther, like all saints and prophets before him, is no angel or perfect. As a human , he had his faults but God, as always, uses imperfect people to bring His light and Word to the world. As Vatican II and Scripture teaches, we are “called to holiness” which starts in accepting both our sinfulness and God’s free gift of grace and forgiveness.
    I hope this 500th anniversary is the foundation from which both churches can work toward a full unity.
    As a side bar, i assist at a Lutheran church every Sunday where I serve as a liturgist. Traditionally known as “Catholic lite”, their community is filled with grace, service and welcoming. The liturgies are almost identical to ours. While their understanding of the “real presence” may be different than us, who can deny that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist……

  2. Thanks to Facebook’s memory, I re-encountered this from PTB a year ago at the beginning of the week of prayer for Christian unity, courtesy Kimberly Hope Belcher:

    “The pastor [‘s homily] reminded us of the beauty of being asked to help, being made able to help. Drawing on his experiences as a child and an adult, he recalled the way that we love one another and grow in community when we work together, even if it might at first seem more efficient to do something alone. Similarly, although God could bring salvation by power alone, God chooses to allow human beings to join together in love and care for one another, so that we may be grateful to one another as well as to God”

      1. @Elisabeth Ahn:
        Follow the link just below the picture of Luther
        http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/weeks-prayer-doc/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20160531_week-prayer-2017_en.html
        About one quarter of the way down the long page, in the section
        “ECUMENICAL WORSHIP SERVICE” … in the section “Directions/Material: Building up and tearing down the Wall” we read:
        ‘Depending on the size of the worship space, the following materials will be necessary for this symbolic action: 12 boxes of the same size (i.e. shoe boxes, transport boxes) covered in packing paper to make the “stones.” On the front side of each box a key term will be noted (lack of love, hate and contempt, false accusation, discrimination, persecution, broken communion, intolerance, religious wars, division, abuse of power, isolation, and pride). As each sin is named the stone is brought forward to build the wall. Following a moment of silence, the stone bearer makes the plea for forgiveness, to which the congregation responds “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”’
        Above it is an explanation about this which is related to the Berlin wall. I think that that wall was imposed on the people rather than being a reflection of their different political preferences so I consider the parallel to be weak. Do think about it as I may be being uncharitable in my comparison to the game show.

      2. @Peter Haydon:

        thank you.

        I was sure that was some metaphor, but no, “the activity with shoe boxes” was literally that.

        Not really a fan of such “gimmicks,” I think your comparison seems quite apt.

  3. So when can we expect the Lutherans to bestow a similar honor on Pope Leo X or the Council of Trent?

    Personally, I think the Mother of God under the titles Our Lady of Fatima (100th anniversary) or Our Lady of Aparecida (300th anniversary) more worthy of the honor.

  4. For some months representatives of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Southern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have met to plan for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, including the creation of a Reformation Resource Packet, presenting ideas for collaboration between local Catholic and Lutheran congregations. The document is now posted on the Archdiocesan website at
    http://www.catholiccincinnati.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Reformation-Commemoration-Resource-Packet2.pdf

    The members of the joint committee are unanimous in their hearty enjoyment of and sincere appreciation for this planning process, through which we have indeed grown in unity!

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