GENEVA, 14 March 2013 (LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has greeted the newly elected leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, on his first day in office, expressing the Lutheran Communion’s joy for Catholics and urging continued dialogue with Lutherans.
The Roman Catholic College of Cardinals elected Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on the evening of 13 March at the Vatican. The 76-year-old pontiff becomes the first head of the Roman Catholic from the global South.
“You have been elected to serve the Church at a time when Lutherans and Catholics are growing in mutual understanding and joint witness not only at the local level but also at a global level,” said the LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge in a letter today addressed to the new pontiff.
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LWF Urges Scaling Up of Aid Efforts for Basic Dignity
ZA’ATRI, Jordan/GENEVA, 28 September 2012 (LWI) – Winter is coming. And even though the late September sky offers no shade from the scorching sun and the drifting dust is a merciless reminder of the Jordanian desert, the months to come mean drastic changes. The 32 degrees Celcius will rapidly drop to single digits below zero at night, and the dust will turn into mud on rainy days.
Za’atri camp in northern Jordan is 70 kilometers from the Syrian border. The number of Syrians fleeing the intensifying conflict at home into neighboring countries has been increasing dramatically over the past three months. By late September the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had registered 94,716 people in Jordan, which is now hosting the highest numbers, followed by Turkey and then Lebanon.
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An LWF delegation comprising LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge visited Za’atri camp on 27 September and witnessed firsthand the conditions there and the humanitarian response supported by the global Lutheran communion.
On September 28, Augusta Victoria Hospital Received Lutheran World Federation General Secretary Rev. Martin Yunge following his travel with LWF President Bishop Munib Younan to the Syrian Refugee Camp the day prior. Following brief presentations by Bishop Younan and Rev. Yunge was a warm reception, food, live music, and conversation.
LWF Leaders Visit Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople
CONSTANTINOPLE, Istanbul/GENEVA, 31 March 2011 (LWI) – The cross was one of the important points during a meeting in Constantinople between leaders of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the 250 million Orthodox Christians around the world.
LWF President Bishop Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, on their first official visit with the Ecumenical Patriarch, 24 to 28 March, participated in the distinctive Orthodox liturgy for the third Sunday in Lent, which includes special veneration of the Holy Cross. Carried through the assembled worshippers in a procession, the cross is placed on a bed of flowers as a reminder that the cross of humiliation becomes at Easter a tree of life.
Bartholomew described the timing of the LWF visit as “very symbolical.” For centuries, he said, “we live by carrying the Cross of Passion through suffering, persecution and struggle for survival. Indeed the same Cross unites us in solidarity and suffering, particularly as you, Bishop Younan, personally strive for human rights, justice and peace for your people. Yet, all of us still resist in the anticipation of Christ’s Resurrection, which is our daily spiritual hope.”
Junge took up similar themes as he presented the Patriarch with a Liberian cross made out of spent bullets from that country’s civil war. All around the world, he said, “there is violence and suffering. Yet in the cross we see that God, who in Christ endured even the cross, is present also today in such painful circumstances.”
In his greeting, Younan identified three ways in which Lutherans and Orthodox can be united in response to human need. These include a shared vision for a just peace for all the people of the Holy Land; advocacy for freedom of religion; and care for all creation. He also invited Orthodox leaders to seize the festivities surrounding the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 as an opportunity to promote reconciliation and unity.
Echoing the Patriarch’s message to the July 2010 LWF Eleventh Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany, Younan said “there can be no deviation” from the long path which will lead to unity at the table of the Eucharist.
The Lutheran delegation included Dr Kathryn Johnson, LWF assistant general secretary for Ecumenical Affairs, and Rev. Sven Oppegaard, advisor to the LWF president. Georges Lemopoulos, deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches, accompanied the delegation.
In discussion with members of the Synodical Commission on Inter-Christian Affairs, both Lutherans and Orthodox appreciated the achievements of 30 years of bilateral theological dialogue as “essential and irreversible.” Both sides agreed that in the future the dialogue should address the major challenges facing the church with greater intensity.
At the beginning of his stay, the LWF president had the opportunity to visit the Orthodox theological seminary on the island of Halki, which was closed by government authorities in 1971. The church is still awaiting authorization to reopen the school. Bishop Younan expressed his hope that the church in Turkey would soon be able once again to have theological formation for its leaders in its local setting.
In saying farewell, the Ecumenical Patriarch told the Lutherans to “Think of us as your friends.”
VATICAN City, Vatican/GENEVA, 16 December 2010 (LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan has invited Pope Benedict XVI to work together with the Lutheran communion in realizing an ecumenically accountable commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
“For us there is joy in the liberating power of the gospel proclaimed afresh by the reformers, and we will celebrate that,” said Younan in a message today, when he led a seven-member delegation in a private audience with the Pope. He underlined the need to recognize both the damaging aspects of the Reformation and ecumenical progress.
“But we cannot achieve this ecumenical accountability on our own, without your help. Thus we invite you to work together with us in preparing this anniversary, so that in 2017 we are closer to sharing in the Bread of Life than we are today.”
Greeting the LWF delegation, Pope Benedict expressed gratitude for “the many significant fruits produced” by decades of bilateral discussions between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, saying it had been possible “slowly and patiently to remove barriers and to foster visible bonds of unity by means of theological dialogue and practical cooperation, especially at the level of local communities.” In the years leading up to the next Reformation anniversary, “Catholics and Lutherans are called to reflect anew on where our journey towards unity has led us and to implore the Lord’s guidance and help for the future,” he said.
The Pope pointed out that the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), whose tenth anniversary was marked in 2009, “has proved a significant step along the difficult path towards re-establishing full unity among Christians and a stimulus to further ecumenical discussion.”
He reiterated his expectation that the close contacts and intensive dialogue which have characterized ecumenical relations between Catholics and Lutherans would continue to bear rich fruit.
Representing every LWF region, the delegation included also the General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge and regional vice presidents from Africa, Presiding Bishop Alex G. Malasusa (Tanzania); from Central Eastern Europe, Bishop Tamás Fabiny (Hungary); and from the Nordic region, Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien (Norway); and staff. Also present was Kurt Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), and other Vatican staff.
In his statement, Younan reiterated the LWF’s commitment to “moving closer toward one another around this Table of the Lord, which Luther saw as the summa evangelii.” The LWF president pointed out that while it was important to “rejoice in each small step which brings us closer together, we do not want to be content with these steps. We remain strong in hope – both for the full visible unity of Christ’s Church and for the Eucharistic communion which is so crucial a manifestation of that unity.”
Younan presented to the Pope a gift from Bethlehem, a carving depicting the Last Supper. Referring to this image, he said, “Each of us can bear witness to the importance of this sacramental meal in nurturing our own Christian lives. Each of us also knows the yearning for the time when we will be able to celebrate this feast together,” said the LWF president.
Younan noted that the LWF had taken a significant step toward Christian reconciliation at its July 2010 Eleventh Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany, by asking forgiveness from Mennonites for the persecution of Anabaptists in the 16th century. In preparing for this act, he said, the LWF was mindful that this legacy was shared by other traditions, including Roman Catholics, who with other ecumenical guests stood in solemn solidarity when the action was pronounced at the Assembly.
“We believe that we took this action on behalf of the whole body of Christ. We pray that this spirit of repentance, reconciliation and renewal will continue to grow among us.”
Younan, who is head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, noted that Catholics and Lutherans share a vision for just peace in the Middle East and support a two-state solution with a shared Jerusalem. He thanked the Pope for his moral leadership in exposing the injustices and idolatries of the global financial crisis – also a concern shared by the LWF, notably in its advocacy against illegitimate debt. On both issues, he urged closer collaboration.
“Our witness will be stronger if we will work together on these problems. Thus we look forward to forging multiple cooperations with our Catholic sisters and brothers at all levels, locally as well as globally,” Younan said.
The LWF president noted that he and the General Secretary represent the new leadership of the global Lutheran communion. Younan was elected President at Stuttgart in July, while Junge began his term of office in November.
The audience with the Pope honors the extraordinary journey by the two churches in recent years, and is a sign of hope for their future relations, Younan said.
Lutherans continue to rejoice, he added, because of the ways the two churches have reached new degrees of theological understanding and agreement, noting in particular the landmark Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.
“Within our own lifetimes, the climate of relations between Lutherans and Catholics has warmed dramatically – and this climate change has been for the good! Around the world our churches live in a new ecology of relationship.” Younan concluded.
GENEVA, 26 November 2010 (LWI) – The worldwide family of Lutherans must work together to serve and heal the broken world, Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, president of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) said in a 25 November address in Geneva.
“We are called to work to eradicate poverty, to be prophetic against injustice, to be bridge builders between South and North and East and West, to strengthen our sisters and brothers who suffer or find discrimination because of their faith, and to be responsible for the integrity of creation,” Younan said.
The head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) was speaking at the installation of LWF’s new general secretary Rev. Martin Junge during a eucharistic service at the Ecumenical Center chapel.
Elected in October 2009, Junge previously served as LWF area secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Department for Mission and Development (DMD). A former president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile, he assumed his new position on 1 November.
Younan said the election of Junge, the first Latin American LWF general secretary, marked a significant moment in the life of the worldwide communion.
“When the LWF elects a general secretary and a president from two of the smallest churches in the LWF, that means that in the communion there is no East or West; there is no affluent or less affluent. It means that our communion is healthy because it is ready to elect people to serve the Lord and the people of the church on the basis of their gifts that Christ bestowed on them,” remarked the LWF president, referring to his acceptance speech at the July 2010 Eleventh Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany.
Reflecting on the gospel text from Luke chosen for the occasion, Younan also spoke of accompaniment, highlighting the essentiality “that this theology of accompaniment pertains not only to those who have the same mind and share the same confession, but also to those who may be different in theology or culture, so that we may come to the realization that we are called to serve together a broken and wounded world.”
“This theology of accompaniment asks us to walk alongside one another with humility, carrying the cross and denying ourselves, bearing one another’s burdens and celebrating together the Eucharist, while finding Christ in the other, whose diversity we joyfully accept for the sake of the advancement of Christ’s kingdom in the world,” Younan concluded.
At the installation, Younan presented the new LWF general secretary with a cross made out of spent bullet casings from Liberia’s civil war. He said the cross was “a sign that we are called to make peace and that healing is possible in our broken, globalized world.”
Official greetings were offered by Bishop Medardo E. Gómez Soto (Salvadoran Lutheran Church) on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean region; Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, World Council of Churches general secretary; and Ms Simangaliso Hove, DMD secretary for project implementation on behalf of LWF staff.