On the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
New England Synod, ELCA
Vito Nicastro, PhD
Associate Director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Archdiocese of Boston
November 1, 2015
All Saints Day
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
It is with joy and gratitude that together we greet you in the name of the One who is our life and our salvation, Jesus Christ. In 1979, our predecessors sent a Pastoral Letter to all our parishes encouraging a joint observance of the 450th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, the basic theological document of the 16th-century reform movement. In our own day, Roman Catholic and Lutheran descendants of the 16th-century Church together have continued to be moved by the Holy Spirit, including through the witness of the Second Vatican Council, to recognize the Lord’s desire that both communions affirm the apostolic faith and seek the healing of the separation that resulted from the Reformation.
Our common ground lies in the life-giving Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We share one baptism into Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior. The Reformation was concerned with what matters most to each of us today, our relationship with God and our eternal destiny. After four decades of Lutheran/Roman Catholic dialogue, in the United States and globally, on October 31, 1999, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation signed a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, agreeing to a consensus on the central dividing issue of the Reformation. “Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.”
Building on this common ground, we seek to witness together to the world. One aspect of this witness is in caring for God’s good creation. Pope Francis’ encyclical On Care for Our Common Home provides a timely opportunity for Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and all our ecumenical partners to gather in small groups to read and discuss it together in an atmosphere of prayer and common faith. We encourage all to do so. Such a time of study, prayer, and ecumenical fellowship will serve as a worthy preparation for our mutual observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
Plans are in process for other ways to commemorate the many gifts in the churches of the Reformation as well as opportunities for mutual repentance in order to reconcile our division. A joint Liturgy of Word and Prayer will be celebrated at a time and venue to be announced. A list of service projects, study guides, and events in the arts and academia will provide opportunities to participate in the worldwide observance.
As we proceed toward this observance, we give thanks for our mutual baptism into Christ Jesus and our irrevocable commitment to full visible unity. For this we must all work and pray.
May the reconciling grace that is God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit be reflected in our common life together as we proclaim Christ crucified and risen for the life of the world!
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston
Bishop James Hazelwood
New England Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Other Links of Interest
- Announcement of plans for the observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017
- Catholic Church's Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the Lutheran World Federation
- USCCB-published Declaration on the Way
- From Conflict to Communion , Holy See
- Press Release - November 12, 2015 [Link to Press Release]
- Cardinal O'Malley, N.E. Lutheran bishop express hope for 'full unity' - The Boston Pilot
- Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of Boston
- New England Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- Resources for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
Pope Francis received a delegation from the Lutheran World Federation on Monday. During the encounter, the Pope said he believed it "is truly important for everyone to confront in dialogue the historical reality of the Reformation, its consequences and the responses it elicited." Both sides, he said, "can ask forgiveness for the harm they have caused one another." The journey of reconciliation was at the heart of the meeting with members of the World Lutheran Federation, who were in Rome to present the work of a joint commission looking ahead to the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation in 2017.
Meeting with representatives of churches and Christian communities, Pope Francis reiterated the determination to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue through the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
"Those who persecute Christ in his faithful do not differentiate between confessions: They persecute them simply because they are Christians." This was emphasized by Pope Francis when meeting with participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which was marking the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Unitatis redintegratio, the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism.