Catholics and Lutherans are "on the right path" to reach an agreement on the outstanding issues related to Church, the ministry and the Eucharist, said Card Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at a briefing today to present the visit the pope is set to make to Sweden for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of Martin Luther (1517), which falls next year.
"Mentioning the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Martin
Luther's Reformation would have been impossible just a few years ago,"
said Rev Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World
Responding to a question, Card Koch said that the newness of the trip
"consists in the very fact that we have a joint commemoration. In the
past we had denominational centennials with a somewhat triumphalist and
polemical tone by both parties. Today we want to do this together, not
only for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation,
but also for 50 years of dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics."
The theme of the pope's visit is From conflict to communion: together in hope.
For Junge, "we understand because of our dialogues, because of the
trust that has grown among us, because also we have been able to remove
some of the obstacles of doctrinal differences among us, that the time
is mature, is ripe, to move ‘from conflict to communion’."
The trip entails the pope’s departure from Rome on the morning of 31
October for Malmö, followed by an official reception at the city's
international airport at around 11 am.
In the afternoon, two ecumenical events will follow a visit with the
Swedish royal family at Kungshuset palace in Lund. The first will be an
ecumenical prayer at Lund’s Lutheran cathedral; the second will be a
meeting with the 30 Lutheran delegations present at Malmö Arena.
The city of Lund was chosen because it is the headquarters of the
Lutheran World Federation and the papal trip will not only commemorate
the 500th anniversary of the Reformation but also 50 years of dialogue
between the Federation and the Holy See.
The next day, 1 November, the pope will celebrate Mass at Malmö’s Swedbank Stadion, and leave for Rome at 12.30 pm.
During the briefing, Vatican Press Office director Greg Burke said
the pope is not expected to make any announcements about intercommunion,
noting that Francis has already taken significant steps during his
visit to Rome’s Lutheran church in November 2015.
On that occasion, responding to a question on intercommunion, the
pontiff said, "I would never dare give permission to do this because I
do not have the authority. One Baptism, one Lord, one faith. Speak with
the Lord and go forward. I do not dare say more."
Both Rev Junge and Cardinal Koch recognised that the Joint
Declaration on Justification notes that there is no agreement on three
points, relative to the ministry, the Church and the Eucharist.
However, "On these issues, there is, at the regional level, an
ongoing dialogue that is going well. We are on right path to resolve
these three points, and we can get to the path of a new declaration on