LWF Delegation Meets Pope Francis

The Pope received a refugee’s teapot as an invitation to work together for the suffering neighbor. Photo: Osservatore Romano
The Pope received a refugee’s teapot as an invitation to work together for the suffering neighbor. Photo: Osservatore Romano
The Pope received a refugee’s teapot as an invitation to work together for the suffering neighbor. Photo: Osservatore Romano

(LWI) – During an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican earlier today, leaders from The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) expressed gratitude for the partnership with the Roman Catholic Church that makes it possible for churches to strengthen their commitment to the poor and vulnerable.

“As people who have been encountered by Christ, we are called to accompany the poor and vulnerable. The message of reconciliation entrusted to us turns into the hope for our fragmented world and its yearning for peace with justice,” LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan said in LWF’s greeting to the pope.

Younan expressed gratitude for the ecumenical milestones of the partnership with Catholics, including the recent publication of the report “From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration in 2017.”

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LWF: Joint Lutheran-Catholic Publication on Reformation Launched

PCPCU President Kurt Cardinal Koch
PCPCU President Kurt Cardinal Koch reflects on “From Conflict to Communion.” © LWF/S. Gallay

Cardinal Koch: Keynote Address to LWF Council

(LWI) Presenting the keynote address to the Council of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) today, Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), reflected on the joint Lutheran-Roman Catholic publication, “From Conflict to Communion,” which was launched during the meeting of the LWF governing body.

Koch expressed his strong hope that the document will be mutually received by Lutherans and Catholics at global and local levels.

“From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration in 2017,” has been published by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity in the context of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and the 50th anniversary of dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics in 2017. It builds on important ecumenical milestones especially the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ).

In his address to the LWF governing body, the PCPCU president reflected on the opportunities that a common Lutheran-Catholic commemoration of the 500th anniversary would offer; the need to listen to one another about the meaning of the commemoration for both sides; rediscovering what Lutherans and Catholics have in common by having the courage to address the conflicts in the Reformation history; and the significance of the current document for the further dialogue process.

Koch said that the decision by the Lutheran – Roman Catholic Commission on Unity to follow up their dialogue process on the topic of baptism under the working title ‘Baptism and Growing in Communion,” was much to be welcomed, as it represents a further important step on the path of deepening understanding between Lutherans and Catholics. He also proposed that this would open a possibility for the preparation of a future joint declaration on church, Eucharist and ministry.

“The true success of the Reformation can only be achieved through the overcoming of our inherited divisions in a renewed Church consisting of all Christians, and that consequently our ecumenical efforts aimed at recovering unity are actually a completion of the work of the Reformation itself,” Koch said.

Questions about Eucharistic Hospitality

Responding to Cardinal Koch’s address, LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan noted that local relationships with Catholics take different shapes in the respective regions and the LWF member churches. “It is my sense that this document can be an important tool in improving relationships and, more importantly, common witness, in all contexts.”

In a plenary discussion following the presentation of “Conflict to Communion” LWF Council members welcomed the publishing of the publication at the global dialogue level, but also expressed hope for its practical reception and relevance at the grassroots.

To read more, visit the Lutheran World Federation’s website.

Cardinal Koch Visits the LWF on Mount of Olives

(Left) His Eminence Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and LWF President Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan. © ELCJHL / Elizabeth McHan

LWF President Bishop Younan Gives Thanks for Common Work with Roman Catholics

JERUSALEM/GENEVA, 25 May 2012 (Lutheran World Information)–The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan thanked Kurt Cardinal Koch for the common work between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, when the Vatican official visited the LWF offices on the Mount of Olives, East Jerusalem.

During the 24 May meeting with Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), Younan said the 45 years of bilateral discussions between the LWF and the PCPCU had resulted in productive dialogue “in our continued search for Christian unity.”

The LWF president urged that in the time ahead, both partners “jointly lift up what we have achieved together in our patient, hard and hopeful work, and point together gratefully to all the agreements we have reached.”

On the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, Younan underlined three essential dimensions for the planning, saying, “We believe the commemoration must be global and ecumenical, and must be commemorated in a spirit of repentance, not because we regret the Reformation, rather because mistakes were made on both sides.”

The LWF president also reiterated his hope that the common statement “From Conflict to Communion” would soon be completed by the bilateral dialogue commission, and that a shared understanding of the Reformation might be reached in the processing of “Harvesting the Fruits,” as proposed by the PCPCU.

Younan, who is head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), noted that Lutherans and Roman Catholics share a vision for just peace in the Middle East, supporting a two-state solution with a shared Jerusalem. He emphasized the importance today of common witness in the Holy Land and throughout the Church of Christ.

Through its congregational and educational ministries, the LWF member church ELCJHL reaches out to thousands of individuals and families each year in Jerusalem, other parts of the West Bank and Amman, Jordan.

Services provided by the LWF through its Department for World Service in East Jerusalem include the Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), a health facility offering emergency and specialized care in the Occupied Territories, to all patients regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political persuasion. The AVH particularly gives Palestinians access to pediatric dialysis and cancer treatment.

LWF President Younan Invites Pope Benedict XVI to Help Plan 500th Anniversary Commemoration

LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, assisted by General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, presents Pope Benedict XVI with a gift from Bethlehem depicting the Last Supper. Second from left is Vatican employee of the hall Francesco Cavaliere. (© Servizio Fotografico “L’Osservatore Romano”)

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.


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LWF President Younan leads LWF Delegation on visit with Pope Benedict XVI

GENEVA, 15 December 2010 (LWI) – Representatives of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) led by the president Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan will visit Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on 16 December.

The seven-member delegation includes also the general secretary, Rev. Martin Junge and these regional vice presidents of the Lutheran communion elected at the July 2010 Eleventh Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany: 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). These LWF officers, together with the staff persons participating in the visit, represent all LWF regions.

The private audience with the pope will take place in the context of the regular annual Joint Staff Meeting between the LWF and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), co-chaired for the first time by Junge in his capacity as LWF general secretary since November and by Kurt Cardinal Koch as recently appointed PCPCU president.

The joint meetings focus on the cooperative work of the two bodies in ecumenical relations.

In October 1999, representatives of the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church jointly signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) in Augsburg, Germany. With the signing, the two partners affirmed that their mutual condemnations concerning the doctrine of justification, dating back to the 16th century, do not apply to their current teaching.

In 2006 the World Methodist Council formally affirmed the JDDJ, with a commitment by the three partners to strive together to deepen their common understanding of justification in theological study, teaching and practice.

Bishop Younan Addresses Vatican Synod on the Middle East

JERUSALEM, October 25, 2010 – On Thursday, October 21, Bishop Younan was invited to address Pope Benedict XVI and the Synod of Bishops at the Special Assembly for the Middle East at the Vatican in Rome.

The Special Synod, which convened on October 10, brought together with Pope Benedict XVI “both cardinals and archbishops, who are heads of the various offices in the Roman Curia, presidents of episcopal conferences around the world, who are concerned with the issues of the Middle East, [and] representatives from the Orthodox Churches and ecclesial communities and Jewish and Muslim guests.”

In Bishop Younan’s address to the Special Assembly, he expressed gratitude for the initiative of the Synod in caring for Christians in the Middle East, and stressed the importance of strengthened ecumenical relations both in Israel-Palestine and in the whole Middle East.

In conclusion, Bishop Younan spoke of the challenges facing the church, saying “Our challenge is nothing less than loving our neighbors as ourselves. Many confess to loving God, but how can they love God whom they have not seen, when they do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen? (1 John 4.20)”

In the Concluding Statement from the Special Assembly of the Middle East, released Friday, October 22, the Synod of Bishops also reflected on challenges and aspirations of the church in the Middle East, and issued appeals to Catholic members throughout the world, ecumenical partners, Jewish and Muslim dialogue partners, and local as well as international political and social leaders.

In the Synod’s appeal to the international community, they urged all “to work to find a peaceful, just and definitive solution in the region, through the application of the [UN] Security Council’s resolutions and taking the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories” (VII.11).

The Synod also spoke out in condemnation of violence and terrorism, saying, “We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism and Islamophobia and we call upon the religions to assume their responsibility to promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations in our region and in the entire world.”

Click here to read the full text of the Concluding Statement from the Synod of Bishops on the Special Assembly of the Middle East.

Palestinian Lutheran Bishop in Jerusalem Supports Catholic Call for a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace

Twenty-five Catholic bishops through-out the Middle East and Africa have called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Israel and Palestine on Dec. 22 and for urgent action by the Christian world to do more to make peace. Bishop Dr. Munib Younan of the ELCJ, serving in Palestine, Jordan and Israel, has written his colleague His Beatitude Patriarch Michael Sabbah of the Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem in gratitude and support, and is asking the Lutheran world and all partners to join in solidarity with them.

“The situation has dragged on many years now, and requires, today more than ever, action to put an end to the sufferings of all inhabitants of this land, Jews, Christians and Moslems, who have become equally incapable of ending the conflict, fettered as they are in a spiral of cruel and irrational violence. Both peoples, Palestinian and Israeli, are on the verge of perishing, the strong as well as the weak, those who use violence as well as those who wait patiently for a peaceful solution,” the statement says.

Bishop Younan states, “We believe that churches should stand together at this time for the sake of humanity and justice in Israel and Palestine and to save them from every kind of fear or oppression, in order that the two nations may live together in their own viable states, side by side in justice, peace and reconciliation.”

Bishop Younan also states that this call must also extend to all people of faith and courage who seek just peace in the Middle East for the sake of our children. He also strongly agrees with the Catholic bishop’s call for urgent action in the Christian churches because it represents the mind of the grassroots when it says:

“We believe that the churches can do still more. If all the Churches of the world recognize their duty towards the Holy Land, and if they all join together in common and concerted action to sensitive their governments, their people and the international community, their intervention will become a decisive factor in the attainment of justice, peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land”.

Both the Statement and Bishop Younan stress the need for relieving suffering on all sides of the conflict.

“We do not call you to take one side against the other. On the contrary, we want you to help both sides find the way to reconciliation. We are calling for an awakening in the Churches of the world, for a strong voice to be raised to promote peace in this Holy Land, where both peoples are in need of outside help in order to find peace and reconciliation,” the statement said.

Bishop Younan asks all the world to join the initiative of the Catholic bishops for a day of fasting, and prayer on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2004 because “we believe that the babe of the manger in Bethlehem will hear the yearnings of every suffering person and will transform the hearts and minds of peoples and politicians toward justice, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation for Christ is our only hope in our troubled Middle East.”