Pope Francis will join people from all over the world in celebration of the ecumenical developments of the Catholic and Lutheran Churches. The event takes place 31 October in southern Sweden. The celebration will be divided into two, one in a cathedral in Lund and one for 10,000 people in a sports arena in Malmö.
The 31 October is called “Reformation Day” by Lutherans. It was the day Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.
The Lund Cathedral ceremony will be a prayer with the pope and the president of the Lutheran church together. It’s the first time for something like this to happen. Then later that day, there will be performances, songs and prayers in Malmö. All of them will be under the general theme of “Together in Hope”.
The programme will include testimonies of people from around the world. One of the speakers is Marguerite Barankitse, the “Mother of Burundi”. She is the founder of “Maison Shalom”. It helps orphans of the civil war lead a normal life. They can get an education and have a chance at a good future. She has experienced brutal war, but continues to have hope for peace.
Another speakers is Héctor Fabio Henao, director of Cáritas Colombia. A peace deal has been sealed there this year. Civil war had been raging for 5 decades.
Peace is possible
Caritas Syria president Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo will also speak. Then 10,000 Catholic and Lutherans will be united in prayer for peace in Syria.
The event should also help in financially. The entire proceeds of the ticket sales (10 € per person) will be going to projects of the Lutheran World Federation to help Syrians in Jordan and to Caritas to support children in Aleppo.
One more highlight of the day will be the signing of a Declaration of Intent between Caritas Internationalis and LWF World Service. It’s an objective is to strengthen the collaboration of the two organisation.
One of the steps to interreligious cooperation was made in 2013 with the publication of “From Conflict to Communion”. Published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, it describes the events of the Reformation. It also celebrates 50 Years of Catholic-Lutheran dialogue.
Bishop Ansers Arborelius of the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm said, “History will be written when Pope Francis and the LWF leaders visit Lund and Malmö to encourage all of us to go further on the road towards Christian unity.”
The event is part of Pope Francis’s plan to open wide the ecumenical doors. “In recent years, despite various misunderstandings and difficulties, strides ahead have been made in interreligious dialogue, even with followers of Islam. Listening is essential for this,” he said.
“It is not only a necessary condition in a process of mutual comprehension and peaceful co-existence, but it is also a pedagogic duty in order to ‘acknowledge the values of others, appreciate the concerns underlying their demands and shed light on shared beliefs’”.
Pope Francis urges us to cut out prejudices and disrespect in order to eliminate violence and conflict.