About 50 Catholics and Lutherans participated in a ceremony commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, held on November 18 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in downtown Montreal.
Earlier this year, the Lutheran Bishop of the Eastern Synod, Michael Pryse, contacted the Archbishop of Montreal, Most Reverend Christian Lépine, to try to organize the event.
When asked about his reasons for extending this invitation, Bishop Pryse declared: "Quite simply, I was responding to the appeal of Pope Francis. He proposed the idea of highlighting the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation by uniting Catholics and Lutherans in prayer."
Pope Francis went to Lund, Sweden, on October 31, 2016, with Bishop Munib Younan and Rev. Martin Junge, representatives of the global communion of the 145 churches of the Lutheran World Federation, to launch the common commemoration of the Reformation¹. The Pope then asked all the churches and parishes worldwide to get together in 2017 and pray together.
The pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Montreal, Eric Dick, added an important nuance: "This is not a celebration of the Reformation, but a commemoration. There's a difference. There is nothing to celebrate or rejoice over, but there is something to remember, and it is an opportunity to come together.
During his homily, Most Rev. Christian Lépine focused on what he calls "the fundamental principle" of this entire movement of rapprochement and reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics: "Jesus Christ is the treasure of our lives; without him, nothing is possible, as is written in the text from the Gospel that we chose for our common prayer today, apart from me you can do nothing (Jn 15:1-5). There are so many things that unite us, we ask ourselves why we got so upset 500 years ago!"
Indeed, throughout the prayer, everyone could see how similar the Lutheran and Catholic liturgies really are, especially during the recitation of the Creed, which doesn't differ in any way.
Bishop Pryse reminded everyone that the Church still requires reformation and purification: "On my many trips to Eastern Canada, I feel the thirst that the faithful from our churches have for unity; everyone wishes to see a more visible communion between Lutherans and Catholics. It is a great desire!"
"This prayer allows us to ask forgiveness for all the wrong that we have done, and the harm that our predecessors did as well." The following words were pronounced during the prayer: "We deeply regret the harm that Catholics and Lutherans have inflicted on each other."
The five imperatives proposed in the document entitled, "From Conflict to Communion" were repeated, as a guide for all Catholics and Lutherans: begin from the perspective of unity; let themselves continuously be transformed by the encounter with the other; seek visible unity; rediscover the power of the Gospel; witness together to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world.
"After each of these engagements, a candle was lit at the foot of the crucifix at the altar, in a simple and modest gesture that was moving and gave this common prayer a sense of solemnity that was conducive to interiority. We had the impression that we were witnessing a historic moment."
"Praying together? Who would have thought it possible 50 years ago?" asked Pastor Dick, "Amen!"
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¹ The report entitled, "From Conflict to Communion," prepared by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity, relates the history of the Reformation as it is unanimously understood by the two traditions, analyses the theological points subject to controversy and lists the disputes that can today be considered resolved thanks to dialogue and mutual understanding.