ECUMENICAL MEETING WITH ROME'S LUTHERAN COMMUNITY
Pope John Paul II
The Holy Father Invites All to Work for Unity without Becoming Discouraged by Difficulties
On the afternoon of Sunday, 11 December 1983, John Paul II paid a visit to "Christuskirche", the church of the Evangelical Lutheran community in Rome. During the meeting, which followed the Pope's pastoral visit to St. Camillus de Lellis Parish, the Holy Father participated in a Liturgy of the Word During the rite, held in German, commenting on a passage from the Gospel according to Matthew, the Holy Father delivered the following discourse in German.
Esteemed Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb 13:8); this is what is written under the figure of the Pantocrater in the apse of this Church of Christ. With these words I greet the Evangelical Lutheran community in Rome and all those present. I thank the representatives of the community for the fraternal invitation to make this visit. In the name of Jesus Christ and under his Word we are gathered here to profess, to praise and to glorify in the unity of our hearts and with one voice our common Redeemer and Kyrios.
The eternal Word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us (cf. Jn 1:14). In this memorable hour of the Third Sunday of Advent, with you I wish to witness this one Lord and Redeemer of ours who is here yesterday, today and forever. We recall with gratitude our common origin, the gift of our redemption and common goal of our itinerary as pilgrims. We are all under the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the centre and the cornerstone in whom all existence, the meaning and salvation of this world and of our lives are contained.
During this Advent time of salvation, our ears and our hearts are tense: they hear and perceive the good news of the one who has already come and who will return definitively. We experience often in our daily lives the anguishing truth of this transitory period. Do we not continually recall the situation of John the Baptist? As the Gospel tells us, he found himself in a decisive situation. He had to resolve the contradiction between the image that had been formed of the Messiah and his personal situation, determined by prison and the threat of death. John's question was therefore serious, and was born from an emergency situation: "Are you 'He who is to come' or do we look for another?" (Mt 11:3).
Jesus reaches out to meet the anguished question of his precursor and brings his faith to certainty: the time of salvation, the kingdom of God has come. The Messiah is here. Without doubt the signs and wonders do not have a compelling nature. But whoever is able to understand the signs as an indication of the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies at the current moment can rejoice at being a citizen of God's eschatological kingdom.
Jesus makes himself known to the precursor who proclaims his arrival. "History has not known a man born of woman greater than John the Baptizer," the Lord attests. "Yet the least born into the kingdom of God is greater than he" (cf. Mt 11:11). Jesus means by this the poor and needy under every aspect, who believes in salvation in Jesus Christ. They can open their hearts and mouths to join in Mary's song of praise: "My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my saviour" (Lk 1:46 ff.).
Esteemed brothers and sisters in Christ. The gift of this meeting moves me in the depths of my heart. I wanted this meeting to take place precisely during Advent. It is an extraordinary opportunity to turn our eyes toward the Lord together, and to await the God of our redemption.
"We are on the threshold of the year 2000. "We are also in a certain way in a season of a new Advent, a season of expectation" (Encyclical <Redemptor Hominis>, no. 1), For this reason I have come, so to speak, to our neighbours, to the citizens of this city "who are united by a special affinity" (Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism). I have come here to commemorate together with you, in prayer and in meditation, the mystery of faith of the Advent which is common to us, its profound and manifold wealth. I have come because the Spirit of God had directed us in these days, through ecumenical dialogue, to seek the complete unity of Christians. We know the difficult history of this Evangelical Lutheran community in Rome, its toilsome beginnings and the lights and shadows of its development in the environment of this city. This so much more urgently poses the question to us: u Can we, despite all human weakness-despite the deficiencies of past centuries-not have confidence in the grace of the Lord, which was manifested during recent times through the word of the Holy Spirit which we perceived during the Council?" (Decree on Ecumenism, no. 6).
We therefore see ourselves profoundly united in the solidarity of all Christians of Advent, in the midst of all the divisions clearly persisting in teaching and life. We ardently desire unity, and we strive to pursue this unity without letting ourselves become discouraged by the difficulties which may be encountered along the path (cf. Decree on Ecumenism, no. 6). Finally, during this five hundredth anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther, we seem to see rise in the distance like the dawn the advent of a restoration of our unity and of our community. This unity is the fruit of the renewal, of the daily conversion and penance of all Christians in the light of the eternal Word of God. It is also the best preparation for the advent of God in our world.
Let us follow the great figure of the season of Advent, let us follow the example of John the Baptist, the voice of the one proclaiming in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord" (Jn 1:23). Let us follow the invitation to reconciliation with God and among ourselves. Christ, the Lord, is not only above but also among us, and he is the Kyrios, the one who was, who is, and who will be forever.
Already today I wish from my heart a blessed Christmas for you and for your families.
Weekly Edition in English
9 January 1984
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