Pontiff Receives Lutheran Delegation From Finland

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 17, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is affirming the Church's friendship with Lutherans on the eve of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Today in the Vatican, the Pope received members of a Catholic-Lutheran delegation from Finland who make an annual trip to Rome for the feast day of St. Henrik, their country's patron.

"Every year," the Pope said, addressing the group in German, "this meeting bears witness to the friendship and cooperation that exist between Lutherans and Catholics and, in general, among all Christians in your country."

The Father spoke of Christian unity, noting that "although the goal of the ecumenical movement -- complete unity in the faith -- has not yet been reached," dialogue has produced many points of agreement, such as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which was signed in 1999.

The Pontiff said that further study of this theme will contribute, among other things, "to a shared viewpoint on the nature of the episcopal office."

"At the same time," he went on, "we are all aware that the ecumenical journey has, in some ways, become more difficult and challenging. In this light, your annual pilgrimage to Rome for the Feast of St. Henrik is an important event and a stimulus to our efforts. It helps us to look back with joy at the goals we have achieved and forward to the future with the desire for responsible compromise."

"In view of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity," the Pope concluded, "let us ask the Spirit of Truth to impel us to ever greater love and fraternity."

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will begin Tuesday and run through Jan. 25.