On October 31, 2017, the last day of the year of the common ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, we are very grateful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, a commemoration that we share together and with our ecumenical partners around the world. Likewise, we ask forgiveness for our failures, the ways in which Christians have hurt the Lord's Body and have offended each other during the 500 years since the beginning of the Reformation until today.
We, Lutherans and Catholics, are deeply grateful for the ecumenical journey we have traveled together over the past 50 years. That pilgrimage, supported by our common prayer, worship and ecumenical dialogue, resulted in the elimination of prejudices, greater mutual understanding and the identification of decisive theological agreements.Faced with so many blessings along the way, we raise our hearts in praise to the Triune God for the mercy received.
On this day we look back on a year of remarkable ecumenical events that began on October 31, 2016 with the common Lutheran-Roman Catholic prayer in Lund, Sweden, in the presence of our ecumenical partners. During the presidency of that service, Pope Francis and Bishop Munib A. Younan, then president of the Lutheran World Federation, signed a joint declaration that includes the commitment to continue traveling together the ecumenical journey towards the unity for which Christ prayed ( see John 17.21). That same day, our joint service to those who need our help and solidarity was also strengthened by a declaration of intent between Caritas Internationalis and the Lutheran World Federation - World Service.
Pope Francis and President Younan declared together: "Many members of our communities long to receive the Eucharist at a table as a concrete expression of full unity. We feel the pain of those who share their whole lives, but they can not share the redemptive presence of God at the table of the Eucharist. We recognize our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual hunger and thirst of our people to be one in Christ. We long for this wound in the Body of Christ to be healed. This is the purpose of our ecumenical efforts, which we hope will also progress through the renewal of our commitment to theological dialogue. "
The blessings of this year of remembrance include the fact that for the first time, Lutherans and Catholics have considered the Reformation from an ecumenical perspective, which gave rise to a new approach to the events of the sixteenth century that led to our separation. We recognize that while the past can not be changed, its influence on us today can be transformed to be a stimulus to the growth of communion and a sign of hope for the world to overcome division and fragmentation. Once again, it became clear that what we have in common is much more than what divides us.
We are pleased that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed at a solemn ceremony by the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church in 1999, was also signed in 2006 by the World Methodist Council and the World Communion of Reformed Churches in this year of commemoration. In addition, today it will be welcomed and received by the Anglican Communion in a solemn ceremony at the Abbey of Westminster. On this basis our Christian communions can build a closer bond of spiritual consensus and common witness in the service of the gospel.
We gratefully acknowledge the numerous common prayer and worship events that Lutherans and Catholics celebrated together with their ecumenical partners in different parts of the world, the theological encounters and the significant publications that gave substance to this year of commemoration.
Looking to the future, we commit ourselves to follow our common path, guided by the Spirit of God, towards greater unity according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ.With the help of God, we intend to discern through prayer our understanding of the Church, the Eucharist and the Ministry, seeking a substantial consensus that will allow us to overcome the remaining differences that exist between us. With deep joy and gratitude, we trust "that he who began in [us] the good work will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1.6)