BRIDGES MARKS HISTORIC JOINT DECLARATION OF CHURCHES
Following the signing of a joint declaration of commitment to unity between the Catholic church and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), SAT-7 ARABIC’s program Bridges broadcast an interview with the President of the LWF, Mounib Younan, who signed the declaration along with Pope Francis.
The declaration, which states that there is more to unite the traditions than to divide them, was signed at a joint prayer service held in Lund, Sweden on 31 October. The meeting was part of two days of events beginning commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which will be marked in 2017.
Younan, who is Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, told Bridges of the importance of the prayer service:
“Firstly, it is the first time the two churches have united in prayer. Both the Catholic and Lutheran churches invited one another to this prayer service. Secondly, it is a historical reconciliation after 50 years of dialogue between the Catholic and Lutheran churches… Today we crown the fruit of this dialogue with joint prayer.”
A DEEPER, MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING
The declaration acknowledges the deepening mutual understanding and trust between Catholics and Lutherans over the past five decades, repents of past conflicts that have “wounded the visible unity of the church”, and pledges a commitment to common witness. The two denominations previously agreed on a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999.
Younan explained that the denominations’ respective charitable relief organisations, the Lutheran World Federation World Service and Caritas Internationalis, have also pledged to work together to help the needy, fight poverty, and promote international development.
WORKING TOGETHER FOR CHRISTIANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Although Younan clarified that the two traditions “have not become one church”, he said that the agreement would “improve the ecumenical movement and give it richness”. Speaking of the particular importance of working together for Christians in the Middle East, Younan said:
“Today we must open the doors for one another and know that Jesus Christ invites us to unity in spirit and to overcome our sectarian differences. We as Christians in the Middle East are a minority… We must work together for a joint witness, achieving justice and reconciliation and combatting religious and political fanaticism in the Middle East.”
REFORMATION AND RE-EXAMINING DIFFERENCES
During the program, presenter Bassem Maher also interviewed Rev. Kamil Willliam, a Catholic priest and Bible teacher at the Catholic Theological Seminary in Cairo, and Dr Samy Ayyad, Assistant Professor at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in the same city. The two religious leaders provided background on the history of Reformation in Christianity.
William explained how Catholics and Lutherans have been reexamining some of their theological differences over the centuries, saying:
“This event crowns massive efforts over hundreds of years to reevaluate things and create objectivity. The Catholic church is reevaluating some issues that the church has been adhering to and that were misinterpreted. On the other hand, the Lutheran church also reevaluated some issues and rediscovered others that were unnoticed during the period of reformation.”
Both men also spoke of the need for continued reformation in churches in Egypt today. Ayyad explained:
“There is a lack of open discussion and dialogue in the churches. The leaders don’t allow it… the churches must be tolerant of different talents and a variety of thought among their youth. We must create theological mindsets in our young people that allow them to think and be critical.”
This episode of Bridges, SAT-7’s flagship current affairs show, was broadcast on 12 November 2016.
Image: courtesy of the Catholic Telegraph.