Since the reformation, the rift between Catholics and Protestants has been wide.

The divide continued into death, as Catholics and Protestants were not buried together.  The tomb of this Protestant husband and Roman wife are separated by a wall as they were not allowed to be buried in the same cemetery.  And yet, their hands reach across the wall to grasp one another.

But in the last fifty years, there has been a thaw.

Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue began in 1964 as a result of the Second Vatican.  Two groundbreaking events of this dialogue was a joint statement on the doctrine of Justification by Faith in 1983 and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) on October 31, 1999.

Now Lutherans and Catholics have made another great step toward unity with plans toward a joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.   They have issued common liturgical guidelines for ecumenical services to mark the occasion with Common Prayer:  From Conflict to Communion. 

This publication includes materials that can be adapted to local liturgical and musical traditions of churches in the two Christian traditions. It recommends all services should stress the concepts of thanksgiving, repentance and common commitment, with the main focus on Jesus.

The section on repentance admits the post-Reformation wars of religion caused “the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people” and undermined the gospel message. “We deeply regret the evil things that Catholics and Lutherans have mutually done to each other,” it says.

“We have been given the enormous privilege of witnessing historic events in the life of the church,” notes Bishop Steven Ullestad.  “It is a time of thanksgiving and celebration.”

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.

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