by Harry Winter, OMI www.harrywinter.org
Dr. Scott Woodward, vice-president for academic affairs and dean of the Oblate School of Theology, published an article in the San Antonio Press, Sept. 18, 2016, which prepares us for the visit of Pope Francis to Sweden, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, to celebrate with Lutherans the 499th anniversary of Luther’s theses. Dr. Woodward asked “why Christians would commemorate an event that resulted in the division of Western Christianity. Indeed, if that is what any of these celebrations are about, they are misguided. Rather, these celebrations mark the effort and prayer that has led us back toward unity in Christ.”
For more than a year, a local group of Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Mennonites have been meeting at OST. They are constructing a January 14, 2017 prayer event, during the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a time of special acceptance for a most significant document signed by Lutheran and Catholic leaders in the USA: “Declaration on the Way,” 32 statements of agreement on Church, Ministry and Eucharist. Dr. Woodward commented on the document: “For those who think ecumenical dialogue goes nowhere, the Declaration is a shock to the system.”
This national ecumenical agreement is based on a 2013 international agreement between the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, “From Conflict to Communion.” This latter document is posted on the OMI USA website “Mission-Unity-Dialogue.”
Let us pray that Pope Francis and all those involved in the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 event will respond to the Holy Spirit, as Catholics and Lutherans continue our convergence begun so remarkably during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Our disunity hinders the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our recovery of unity helps Evangelization, Justice/Peace/Integrity of Creation, and Spirituality.