Hannover (Germany), 3 December 2018

Bishop Brian Farrell


Dear Bishop Ulrich, and dear Bishop July, dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The PCPCU is happy to be a part of this celebration, and to say a heartfelt word of gratitude to Bishop Ulrich, chair of the German National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation since 2011, and to extend our best wishes to Bishop July who today becomes the new chairman of the Committee.

In particular I bring greetings from Cardinal Koch who could not be here today, because of another meeting taking place in Bratislava.

Being here is a way for us to say thanks to Bishop Ulrich for his personal commitment to building close relations between Lutherans and Catholics. Since Bishop Ulrich became chair of the German National Committee and Presiding Bishop of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) there have been many contacts between him and the PCPCU, in Rome, in Timmendorfer Strand, in Wittenberg and at the General Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation in Namibia; in worship, in discussion and even on a bit of a "safari" in the countryside.

 Bishop Ulrich and the German National Committee have been keen supporters of the international Lutheran -Catholic dialogue and we value this support as an encouragement to continue to serve the great cause of Christian unity.

We are at a stage in the relationship between Catholics and Lutherans when what happens in one church evokes interest and prayerful participation in the other.  We have travelled far on a journey of mutual rediscovery and reconciliation. Proof of this new relationship was the common commemoration of the Reformation, under the title: from Conflict to Communion, giving sincere thanks to God for the good things brought to Christ's Church by the Reformation, asking forgiveness for our division, and committing ourselves to move forward towards reconciled convergence and common witness.

 After living in our separate worlds, spurning one another for nearly five centuries, we are rediscovering each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Lutherans and Catholics have seen that there is more that unites us than what divides us: therefore we are on the way to a sincere reconciliation of hearts and minds. "For Christ's love compels us, - as St Paul teaches -  the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation... And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor 14-19).

There is still a way to go on this journey. It is a journey filled with surprises. There is a part of ecumenical work that we can plan and carry out and control to a certain degree. But there is a better part that depends on the Holy Spirit who blows where he wills and leads us into the whole truth; this is the part we sometimes do not clearly see or fully understand. What is important is that we and the members of our churches be convinced that the ecumenical journey is indispensable if we are to listen to Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper, and it is extremely urgent if we are to contribute to the coming of God's Kingdom in this suffering and needy world

When Pope Francis visited the World Council of Churches in Geneva in June of this year, commemorating the seventieth anniversary of its founding, he offered a roadmap for our ecumenical relationships, in three concepts: 'walking together, praying together and working together'. There is so much that Christians can do together, that in the past we have not been doing together!  I am especially encouraged by something that Pope Francis has repeated a number of times: we must not continue to use our differences to remain apart and not cooperate.

Our differences are important when they are expressions of the immense richness of the Christian message. But when they are the consequence of human frailty and a worldly mentality, we are called to purify our hearts and our memories.

Five centuries of conflict, rivalry and prejudice between Catholics and Protestants is being overcome, slowly but surely.  Through a profound conversion -  by turning history in the opposite direction - the churches can together distance themselves from the mistakes and exaggerations that led to their separation and discern and take up the gifts that God is giving to each.

The PCPCU is eager to continue and intensify this journey forward with the LWF. We are confident that the German National Committee (GNC) under the new leadership of Bishop July will continue to support and encourage this common pilgrimage. Society today urgently needs our common voice and testimony. We are part of a broken and divided world: we cannot ignore the needs of millions of our brothers and sisters, the structural sin that governs much of the economic, ecological, social and political realities of our time. Our Christian commitment will be a source of healing, unity, peace, communion if we walk together, pray together and work together. In this sense our ecumenical relationship is a prophetic force, an antidote to indifference and despair, an antidote to 'emptying the Gospel of its power to save'.

Dear Bishop Ulrich, and dear Bishop July, dear friends, please accept the congratulations, prayers and best wishes of the PCPCU for the precious time we have walked together in ecumenical brotherhood and for the very promising journey ahead. May the good Lord sustain you in all your efforts.