Vatican, Lutherans Preparing Document on Reformation

Pope's Trip to Homeland Will Have Ecumenical Focus

| 5847 hits

ROME, AUG. 30, 2011 (Zenit.org).- According to the Vatican official on ecumenism, the Church and the World Lutheran Federation are preparing a Joint Declaration on the Reformation, in view of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, announced this in an interview with the German Catholic agency KNA.

In this context, Vatican Radio reported Monday that Benedict XVI wants his Sept. 22-25 trip to Germany to have an ecumenical focus.

The Catholic-Lutheran document will "analyze the Reformation in the light of 2,000 years of Christianity," noted Vatican Radio.

"The joint commemoration of this anniversary could be the occasion for a mutual mea culpa," the report suggested. For Cardinal Koch, "a common purification of the memory" is necessary.

During his trip to Germany, Benedict XVI will visit Erfurt, where Luther carried out part of his studies. Cardinal Koch said that it was the Pope himself who wished to give this trip a notable ecumenical dimension.

Benedict XVI's third trip to his native land has as its motto "Where There Is God, There Is a Future." The trip will also include stops in Berlin, Etzelsbach and Freiburg im Breisgau.

For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Protestant pastor, pointed out that Benedict XVI's trip encourages "convergence and solidarity between Christians and present-day society."

Intense preparation

In fact, to prepare his trip to Germany, the Pope held a meeting of more than three hours Aug. 13 with an official delegation of the German episcopate, made up of the archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Reinhard Marx; the president of the episcopal conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch; and the bishops of Osnabruck and Essen, Bishop Franz-Josef Hermann Bode and Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, respectively.

The meeting took place "in a profound spirit of fraternity," according to Vatican Radio, and the Pope and prelates shared a meal together.

In a communiqué published on the meeting, the German bishops explained that they informed Benedict XVI about a process of national dialogue established by the Church in Germany. This program involves some 300 lay and religious Catholic leaders, who are reflecting on faith and the future of the Church. The initiative was proposed in the fall of 2010, and the first meeting took place last month.

The bishops said the Holy Father was very interested in this program, saying that it could be an important impulse for the future of the Church. Benedict XVI pointed out that this dialogue is a spiritual path of renewal and he encouraged the German bishops to continue. The Holy Father also stressed the link that should be established with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.

Program

The Pontiff will begin his trip on Sept. 22 in the German capital. That day he will meet with Merkel and President Christian Wulff. He will also have a meeting with the Jewish community, and celebrate a public Mass.

The next day he will meet with representatives of the Muslim community. Then he will go to Erfurt, in Thuringia, to the places where Luther lived.

After visiting St. Mary's Cathedral, he will meet with representatives of the German Evangelical Church Council and then take part in an ecumenical celebration in the church of the Augustinians' convent in Erfurt.

In the afternoon, the Pope will go to the shrine of the Virgin of Etzelsbach, where he will preside over vespers. That night he will return to Erfurt.

On Saturday, Sept. 24, he will preside over Mass at 9 A.M. in the Domplatz of Erfurt. In the afternoon, he will go to Freiburg: Here, after visiting the cathedral and greeting the citizens, he will meet with former Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Later he will hold three meetings: with the representatives of the Orthodox Churches, with seminarians and with the Council of the Central Committee of German Catholics. That night he will take part in a vigil with young people.

On Sunday, Sept. 25, the Pontiff will celebrate Mass and pray the midday Angelus in Freiburg. After lunching with the members of the German Episcopal Conference, he will meet with the judges of the Federal Constitutional Court and with Catholics involved in the Church and in society.

The farewell ceremony will take place at 6:45 P.M. in the Lahr airport, before the return flight to Castel Gandolfo that night.