November 12, 2015 - Announcement of plans for the observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017*
On behalf of the Archdiocese of Boston Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs we want to send to you a joint letter by Cardinal Seán and Lutheran Bishop James Hazelwood announcing plans for the observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. A press release and some instructions for additional information follow the letter. The letter will be released tomorrow and we expect a story in the The Pilot and Boston Globe.
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
IN THE SPIRIT OF A COMMITMENT TO THE JOURNEY TO FULL UNITY CATHOLIC AND LUTHERAN LEADERS ANNOUNCE PREPARATIONS FOR THE OBSERVANCE OF THE 500TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE REFORMATION
Letter signed by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and Lutheran Bishop James Hazelwood
Braintree, MA - November 12, 2015 - Five centuries after Western Civilization split into two halves, Catholic and Protestant, and after more than 50 years of international dialogue, the two sides are using the 500th anniversary of the Reformation to move closer together. From now until October 2017, with cooperative ventures in service, arts, academics, and evangelization, it is the hope and prayer of Catholics and Lutherans that this effort will contribute to advancing the goal of full unity.
In a joint letter Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and Lutheran Bishop James Hazelwood wrote, “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.” They added, “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.” The full text of the letter is available at www.nesynod.org and www.bostoncatholic.org.
Recently the USCCB issued a statement stating that “Lutherans and Catholics together have issued the “Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharist,” a unique ecumenical document that marks a pathway toward greater visible unity between Catholics and Lutherans. The October 30 release of the document comes on the eve of the anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting the 95 Theses, which sparked the Protestant Reformation.” The USCCB noted that at the heart of the document are 32 Statements of Agreement where Lutherans and Catholics already have reached consensus in terms of the church, ministry and Eucharist. The document also indicates differences still remaining and possible paths forward.
Said Bishop Hazelwood (Lutheran), “This is an opportunity to pursue a shared commitment to our journey toward full unity. We are coming together around our common agreement on the Heart of the Gospel. I believe it is essential that we listen together to our responsibility to the environment, while we serve the world together. This is one example of our desire to connect to the regional, national, and international ecumenical commemoration of the reformation. In this time, we can embody a new reformation that puts our differences aside in the interest of our common home.”
Vito Nicastro, PhD, Associate Director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, said, “It is important to understand that this is a mission driven event. In fact all ecumenism is an evangelization opportunity because our unity is around the gospel. The opportunity to learn from each other is exciting. The worldwide observance is turning this event into a sign of hope.”
As the commemoration progresses there are increasing opportunities for participation of all denominations of Protestants.
For more information
New England Synod, ELCA
Vito Nicastro, PhD
Associate Director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Archdiocese of Boston
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR PARISHES
If parishioners have questions or would like more information, this letter is in synch with documents such as the Catholic Church's Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the Lutheran World Federation available here and the USCCB-published Declaration on the Way available here.
There are also resources on the Holy See's website such as From Conflict to Communion available here.
The Archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs is also available to help both during business hours (617-746-5799) as well as evenings or weekends (617-435-0019). Please accept their respectful thanks for your ministries.