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Lutheran-Catholic study sessions held in Winnipeg

By James Buchok


WINNIPEG — The Catholic and Lutheran churches of Winnipeg are presenting ecumenical study sessions to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Co-chairs of the Roman Catholic - Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada working group for the 500th Year Commemoration of the Reformation are Roman Catholic Archbishop of Winnipeg Richard Gagnon and Rev. Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

The bishops will join in the five gatherings, under the banner of “Together in Christ,” for conversation, study and prayer at Lutheran and Catholic churches, one each month from February to June. The first session is Feb. 28 at Lutheran Church of the Cross on Arlington Street. The evening will begin with a Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper.

Designated Lutheran and Catholic parishes in rural Manitoba are making their own arrangements to host and gather for some or all of the five ecumenical study sessions. Dates and venues for sessions outside of Winnipeg will be announced as plans are finalized.

The study sessions will touch on some of the events and theological questions surrounding the Reformation and advancements in reconciliation which have occurred over the past 50 years.

The Winnipeg sessions will each feature a different theme connected to the commemoration of the Reformation based on the document, From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017, a product of Lutheran and Roman Catholic dialogue over the past 50 years; and the theological agreement outlined in The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed in 1999.

In a letter last year to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, Gagnon explained the “immense significance” of the events of Oct. 31, 2016 at the 1000-year-old Lutheran cathedral in Lund, Sweden, when Pope Francis joined with leaders of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The LWF bishop, Dr. Munib A. Younan, and general secretary, Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, participated with Pope Francis “in a communal liturgy highlighting the fruits of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue.”

Gagnon states that the gathering in Lund served as an opportunity for Catholics and Lutherans to commemorate together the Reformation through a symposium and using a liturgical service entitled Common Prayer, “one of the fruits of the Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration document.”

The Lund meeting, writes the archbishop, was part of the “reception process of this document and is meant to reverberate throughout the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church during 2017.

“In Canada, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada have formed a joint working group to develop a study guide for Lutherans and Catholics at the local level to commemorate the Reformation together in light of their common baptism and the principles agreed to in the document. Commenting on the mutual commemoration, Pope Francis stated: ‘I believe that it is truly important for everyone to confront in dialogue the historical reality of the Reformation, its consequences and the responses it elicited.’ ”

The archbishop also quotes Rev. Dr. Junge, who said at the Lund gathering, “I am convinced that by working toward reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we are working toward justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence.”

The full schedule of dates and locations for the “Together in Christ” sessions can be found on the Archdiocese of Winnipeg and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario synod websites.

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