There is no doubt that the 17th international trip of Pope Francis served to give a very strong acceleration in ecumenical dialogue with the Lutherans. It’s the fruit of 50 years of confrontation started after turning reconcile. A similar trip, served to break down (or at least to weaken) secular prejudices and mutual mistrust, it was simply unthinkable a few decades ago. It’s true, there was the precedent of St. John Paul II in 1989.
On that occasion, however, ecumenism was only one aspect of the trip, and not even the most important. The Pope went first of all to confirm the faith of the small (young) Swedish Catholic community. Today Francesco wanted to explicitly meet the Protestant brethren, so that at the beginning he didn’t think to stop to celebrate the Mass. Fortunately he reflected and changed his position. What remains imprinted in the collective imagination is undoubtedly the embrace between the Pope of Rome and president of the Lutheran World Federation, Munib Younan. It’s a bit the icon of the visit: “What unites us is more than what divides us.”
So an irreversible dialogue. But we can’t close our eyes to the differences, substantial, that still divide the Christian churches. It’s true that on the humanitarian level, on that of environmental protection, on the reception of refugees and displaced persons we can walk together, we can work together, we can depose together. Mutual apologies and forgiveness are good. But you can’t just lean to the powerful of the sixteenth century all the responsibility for what is the biggest wound inflicted to West Church
No doubt they have accentuated the furrow excavated by Luther for political and economic interests. But speaking about “gratitude” for “spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation”, as says the joint statement signed in Lund, raises some doubts. Because between those “fruits” there are also issues such as women priests, divorce and rampant secularism really bitter and difficult to digest.