After centuries of separation, evangelicals and Catholics look to shared future

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Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of the Roman Catholic Church have published a ‘Common Word’ document to mark the anniversary of when Martin Luther supposedly nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral in October 1517. The 90-page statement calls for reflection on the reformers’ concerns and to listen afresh to their calls for repentance and spiritual renewal.

The two leaders will use the anniversary year as a chance to improve relations between the churches.

“A look at history reveals the suffering and wounds that Christians have inflicted on each other. This shocks and shames us,” they said in a statement introducing the ‘Common Word’.

“We see it as an exceptional moment of our fellowship, after centuries of mutual separation, to mark a Reformation anniversary with such readiness to engage in forgiveness and a new beginning.”

In the document the leaders “confess our guilt before God on behalf of our churches, asking God and each other for forgiveness and committing ourselves before God to continue to deepen our togetherness.”

A service “of penitence and reconciliation” will be held on 11 March next year in the German city of Hildesheim with local churches encouraged to follow suit.

Other ecumenical initiatives to mark the anniversary include a pilgrimage to Israel / Palestine by church leaders.

Pope Francis is also set to begin marking the occasion next month with a service alongside Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, at Lund, in Sweden. They will pray for forgiveness and ask for healing of the wounds inflicted on each other since the Reformation. Christianity Today

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