It is remarkable that we have come so far in just the last fifty years. There was a time here in the U.S. when Lutherans and Catholics wouldn’t even acknowledge one another’s presence. I, a Catholic, was taught Lutherans were heretics and Martin Luther, a renegade monk.
A Lutheran minister told me long ago that that his mother taught him to never trust a Catholic. These days, it looks like the pope and the Lutherans are trying to trust one another.
We’ve come far by dialoging. Lutheran leaders who have been in the forefront of ecumenical discussion think it’s O.K., even good, to walk into the Vatican and meet the Roman Pope on his own turf. They hear him say that Lutherans and Catholics do not need to contend any more. That time is over. It is a time of healing now.
In his opening words, Pope Francis greeted his Lutheran guests as brothers and sisters in the Lord.
He encouraged both Lutheran and Catholic leaders to work on practical ways of achieving the unity that Christ, Our Lord, prayed for in John 17; 20-21.
I have been blessed to be friends with three wonderful Lutheran ministers in my life. Forty years ago, one of them gave me a print of the Last Supper (by P. C. Hodgell).
He wrote on the back of the print the following prayer: “…toward the time when we will be able to take communion together.”
Pope Francis thinks we are getting closer to that time.