Pope tells Finnish delegation that Ecumenical journey is not optional

Pope Francis meeting Finnish Lutherans

Throughout this week the Catholic Church  is observing a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, focusing on the biblical verse “Justice and only justice you shall pursue”.

On this occasion Pope Francis met a Finnish ecumentical delegation from the Lutheran Church and observed that this year’s theme “the verb is in the plural and it reminds us that we cannot work for justice apart from one another.  In a world so deeply torn by conflict, hatred, forms of nationalism and division, our common prayer and commitment to greater justice cannot be deferred.”

Reporting on this meeting, “Vatican News” said that the Pope told the delegation that  ecumenism is a journey and a “shared commitment to ecumenism is an essential requirement of the faith we profess; it stems from our very identity as Christ’s followers.”

As we make this journey, Pope Francis continued “our unity grows” and he reiterated that this common path that is tread is an irreversible one. This is not an optional way, he said.

“When we pray in common, when we join in proclaiming the Gospel and serving the poor and the needy”, the Pontiff observed, “we are walking together on the path leading to the goal of visible unity.”

According to “Vatican News” the Pope pointed out that the “the theological and ecclesiological issues that still keep us apart can only be resolved in the course of the journey along this common path, without forcing matters and without being able to foresee when and how it will take place.” He also underlined that the Holy Spirit was there as a guide on this journey.

In the meantime, Pope Francis said, “we are called to do what we can to promote encounter and to resolve in charity the misunderstandings, conflicts and prejudices that have tainted our relations for centuries.”

The Pope also mentioned that, “the journey towards theological consensus has been aided by the recent Declaration of the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission for Finland on the Church, Eucharist and Ministry Communion and Growth.  The dialogue, he stressed, “needs to continue and to build on this beginning.”

In conclusion, the Pope said he was confident a shared witness of prayer and faith would prove fruitful and that the delegation’s visit would strengthen the good cooperation already existing between Lutherans, Orthodox and Catholics in Finland.