Address on the Occasion of the Encounter with the Lutheran World Federation and representatives of Caritas Internationalis
and LWF World Service

25 June 2021


Kurt Cardinal Koch


After our meeting and discussion yesterday, sisters and brothers in Christ, I am pleased to warmly welcome you again here in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. A special greeting today goes to the representatives of the diáconally and social ethically important organizations of the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, that is, LWF World Service and Caritas Internationalis.

The last major meeting in an official framework took place in Lund and Malmö on 31 October 2016. In the Lutheran Cathedral of Lund, we commemorated the quincentenary of the Reformation, with Pope Francis and then LWF President Bishop Munib Jounan signing a joint statement expressing the ecumenical significance of this remembrance. Then we travelled to Malmö where we heard impressive testimonies to ecumenical cooperation in social ethical fields. There LWF World Service and Caritas Internationalis signed a joint statement on agreements that aim to consolidate and deepen their cooperation in promoting inviolable human dignity and social justice.

The two events in Lund and Malmö re-enacted, so to speak, features of the whole ecumenical movement. As you know, it began at the First World Mission Conference in Edinburgh in 1910. From there went forth two important movements that accompany ecumenism to this day. The first was the Life and Work movement. Founded in 1914 in Constance, Germany, it set itself the aim of initiating intensive cooperation to overcome the great social challenges; at the time the priority lay on striving for understanding and peace. The second branch of the ecumenical movement, which also goes back to Edinburgh, is the movement for Faith and Order. In 1948 it became an independent commission of the World Council of Churches, concerned with specifically theological questions of faith in order to take forward the quest for visible church unity in confessing the one faith, in the communion of worship and the sacraments, in church order and the ministries.

Since Edinburgh, the ecumenical movement has always walked on these two legs and it is on these two legs that it must also realize itself in the present and stride into the future. On the one hand, social-ethically oriented ecumenism needs the spiritual and theological dimension, in order to preserve its Christian identity. And on the other hand, spiritual and theological ecumenism constantly needs to prove itself in view of the challenges of secular societies. As Pope Francis underlined in Lund: “Without this service to the world and in the world, Christian faith is incomplete.”[1] The events of Lund and Malmö were an object lesson, credibly demonstrating the way the two ecumenical legs belong together.

Our meeting today is a promising sign that the ecumenical connection between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church wants to continue on these two legs into an auspicious future. I therefore welcome you once again here in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity for our meeting and discussion today and wish the leaders and staff of the two organizations LWF World Service and Caritas Internationalis the strength and courage of our faith and God’s blessing in everything they do.




[1]  Francis, Homily at the Common Ecumenical Prayer in the Lutheran Cathedral of Lund on 31 October 2016.