National Council of Churches in India welcomes the Joint Unity Declaration by the Catholics and Lutherans
October 31, 1517 became a kairos day in history as Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the doors of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. After 499 years on the same day, another landmark history was created in the Lutheran Cathedral of Lund in Sweden when Pope Francis and Bishop Dr. Munib Younan (President – Lutheran World Federation) jointly signed a statement in which Catholics and Lutherans pledged to pursue their dialogue in order to remove the remaining obstacles that hinder them from reaching full unity. They also stressed their commitment to common witness on behalf of the poor, the needy and victims of injustice. This commemoration brings hope for greater unity.
A galaxy of Christian disciples including clerics, theologians and ecumenists from all over the globe representing several ecclesial confessions were present on the occasion.
One very significant feature of the service in the Lund Cathedral was the participation of several children and women in the worship. It is noteworthy that an Indian Bhajan, ‘Jyothi do.. jeevana do’ was part of the worship and was elegantly sung by the choir. This ecumenical worship was co-conducted by the Church of Sweden and the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm.
The event highlighted the strong ecumenical developments between Catholics and Lutherans and the joint gifts received through dialogue, particularly in anticipation of the 500th Reformation anniversary in 2017.
The service in Lund Cathedral followed the Common Prayer liturgical guide, which is based on the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue report From Conflict to Communion – Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017.
This commemoration had two parts: a common prayer service in Lund Cathedral and a public event at the Malmö Arena. Malmö Arena was the stage for activities focusing on the commitment to common witness and service of Catholics and Lutherans in the world. Pope Francis, LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge led the common prayer service and the arena event along with leaders from the Church of Sweden and the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm.
This worship service can be viewed at https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=plkK6zNHP_0
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches has eulogized the event by stating, “A new reality in the one ecumenical movement today in the Lund cathedral. It is a new step in our pilgrimage together of unity, justice and peace. By the grace of God.”
Rt Rev. Dr. P. C. Singh, the President of National Council of Churches and Deputy Moderator of the Church of North India says, ” I am excited and have no words to describe how the God of Unity is working in shrinking the gaps of ecclesial differences. It is one significant step in our journey towards ‘One world-wide Christ centred Church.’ “
Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in India, welcomes the move asserting that “reformation should be an ongoing process in the lives of all churches,” and hopes that “this Lund initiative will pave the way for several such ecclesial confessions of togetherness and service to be signed by different churches, and implemented by them at the local congregational levels.”
Rev. Dr. A G Augustine Jeyakumar, the Executive Secretary of the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India and Treasurer, National Council of Churches in India views this joint commemoration of conflict to communion as a “modern day miracle” which “invites all Christians to look beyond our personal theological and ecclesiastical conflicts and strive for greater communion that God intended for.” He further adds, “Reformation of anything is not a matter which can be accomplished in one day, one generation or in one country. It is an ongoing process. What was started at Lund, let us continue at our local places!”
Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar
Commission on Unity and Mission