REGINA — It took almost 500 years for this scene to develop: a Roman Catholic archbishop and an Evangelical Lutheran bishop standing together in a Lutheran church, jointly presiding over a worship service commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Regina Roman Catholic Archbishop Donald Bolen and Evangelical Lutheran Bishop of Saskatchewan Sid Haugen processed together into Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church to begin the service called “Together in Christ.” They alternated saying the opening prayers after Pastor Sarah Dymund extended them a welcome to the church. Dymund read the day’s Gospel and took part in some of the prayers.
“I am thankful you are all here today,” said Haugen, and joked about having a church full of people on a Saturday afternoon. In his homily, Bolen stated that we have come a long way in our relations, noting that part of our ecumenical progress has been learning to revisit together the history of our separation 500 years ago. This has allowed the Catholic Church to come to a reassessment of Martin Luther, recognizing that he didn’t wish to start a new church but to bring renewal and reform to the Catholic Church. Catholics have also come to recognize the importance of Luther’s own journey toward a faith in a God whose mercy is much greater than our sinfulness.
In their joint homily, both Haugen and Bolen referred to the document From Conflict to Communion signed by representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church in 2013. The document reviews the history of conflict that arose following Martin Luther’s action and the almost 500-year journey that brought the two faith traditions together.
From Conflict to Communion contains five imperatives that were read aloud by representatives of the two faiths. After each reading a large candle was lit, brought to the front of the church and placed with the others.
The five imperatives read:
1. Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common, even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced;
2. Lutherans and Catholics must let themselves be continuously transformed by the encounter with the other and by the mutual witness of faith;
3. Catholics and Lutherans should again commit themselves to seek visible unity, to elaborate together what this means in concrete steps and to strive repeatedly toward this goal;
4. Lutherans and Catholics should jointly discover the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for our time; and
5. Catholics and Lutherans should witness together the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world.
The Order of Service was the same as that which was used Oct. 31, 2016 in Lund, Sweden, when Pope Francis and Lutheran World Federation president and Bishop of Jordan and the Holy Land Munib Younan presided over an ecumenical service commemorating the anniversary of the Reformation.