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March 12, 2017

Catholic, Lutheran bishops mark Reformation anniversary

By Joyce Duriga

Editor

On March 2, Catholic and Lutheran bishops took part in a prayer service to observe the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Bishops from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops took part in the service held at ELCA headquarters in Chicago. The service followed the Common Prayer liturgical guide developed for the joint ecumenical commemoration with Pope Francis held in Lund, Sweden, on Oct. 31, 2016. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

From left, Bishop Michael Warfel of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings and Bishop David Talley of the Diocese of Alexandria share a laugh before the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Bishop Guy Erwin of the Southwest California Synod and Bishop Michael Warfel of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings talk before the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

On March 2, Catholic and Lutheran bishops took part in a prayer service to observe the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Bishops from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops took part in the service held at ELCA headquarters in Chicago. The service followed the Common Prayer liturgical guide developed for the joint ecumenical commemoration with Pope Francis held in Lund, Sweden, on Oct. 31, 2016. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Rev, Lowell Almen (left) and Bishop Denis Madden (right) fill the water for blessing. They are co-chairs of the U.S. Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue. On March 2, Catholic and Lutheran bishops took part in a prayer service to observe the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Bishops from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops took part in the service held at ELCA headquarters in Chicago. The service followed the Common Prayer liturgical guide developed for the joint ecumenical commemoration with Pope Francis held in Lund, Sweden, on Oct. 31, 2016. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Rev. Lowell Almen, co-chair of the Lutheran Catholic Dialogue, blesses the congregation. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Lutheran Bishop Tom Aiken prays during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Bishop David Talley of the Diocese of Alexandria holds his booklet. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ecumenical and Interrelgious Affairs, addresses the congregation while Bishop Donald Kreiss, chair of the ECLA Bishops' Ecumenical and Interreligious Liaison Committee, looks on. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Bishop Donald Kreiss, chair of the ECLA's ecumenical and interrelgious liaison committee, leads the congregation in prayer. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Bishop Tracie Bartholomew of the New Jersey Synod lights a candle. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Bishop Robert McElroy of the Diocese of San Diego makes his way to light a candle. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

On March 2, Catholic and Lutheran bishops gathered in Chicago for a prayer service commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and to release a statement on the event.

The service took place at the Lutheran Center, 8765 W. Higgins Road, during a joint meeting of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Each year Lutherans mark Oct. 31 as Reformation Day, honoring Martin Luther, who was a Catholic priest in 1517 when he began the process that became the Protestant Reformation. His “95 Theses” were a list of topics on which, Luther believed, the Catholic Church needed to reform.

In their recent statement the U.S. Lutheran and Catholic bishops acknowledged an ongoing relationship.

“Lutherans and Catholics in this country have long affirmed the ecumenical principle that ‘what unites us is greater than what divides us.’ For more than 50 years we have contributed to the theological dialogues that have helped move us ‘from conflict to communion,’” the statement read. “We join our work, our prayers and our commitments to the efforts of Christians around the world who this year are commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.”

It was important to the U.S. bishops that the March 2 service model the service with Pope Francis and Lutheran World Federation President Bishop Munib Younan in Lund Cathedral, Sweden, on Oct. 31, 2016, during which they signed a joint statement in which Catholics and Lutherans pledged to pursue their dialogue toward full unity and committed themselves to work for the poor, the needy and victims of injustice.

Together Pope Francis and Bishop Younan “affirmed both the sorrow and the tearing apart of the body of Christ but also the joy and expectation of the reality and hope that 500 years into this that we have begun again being able to see each other as sisters and brothers,” said Lutheran Bishop Donald Kreiss, chair of the ELCA’s committee for ecumenical and interreligious relations. “And that amongst our people on both sides there is a deep longing for fellowship at the table. We’re not there yet but it’s an important part of this observance on this 500th anniversary of the Reformation to say, ‘Look how far we have come.’”

For 50 years, the Evangelical Lutheran bishops and Catholic bishops have met to dialogue.

“The dialogue is important in part for Lutherans because if we remember our history the Reformation started as an effort not to separate the church but to reform it. Over the centuries since we have not forgotten that we are part of the church catholic and that that is where our deep roots are. This is in some ways a way to honor the home from which we came,” Bishop Kreiss said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interrelgious Affairs has formal dialogues with 14 faith groups.

Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, chair of the committee, agreed with Bishop Kreiss that Martin Luther didn’t mean for the Reformation to be a split from the Catholic Church.

“We acknowledge the pain of that separation but we also say we can’t leave it right where it is. Christ wants us to be united and so he’s bringing us together in the Holy Spirit in our dialogue discussions and in the many times we meet as Lutherans and Catholics,” Bishop Rozanski said.

He sees the dialogue as important for the good of Catholics in the pews — especially for married couples where one spouse is Catholic and the other is Lutheran.

“I think it is very important that we model for them that this separation is not meant to be permanent but that there is hope of us coming together,” Bishop Rozanski said. “For them it’s a powerful witness but I think for all Catholics and all Lutherans it’s a sign that we’re not allowing the status quo to remain as it is, that we feel very deeply that we’re called to unit.”

Catholic Bishop Denis Madden, co-chair of the U.S. Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue, said that the prayer service and statement show the close relationships between the Evangelical Lutherans and Catholics.

“We’ve been really working hard at it. I think there’s been kind of — Pope Francis uses the word impatience — a kind of impatience that we move forward. I think both of our communities share that same feeling. There’s a desire in both communities to come together and be one church.”