Saturday, October 29, 2016

Walking Ecumenism

How do I love Pope Francis?  Let me count the ways . . . or just talk about the latest way.  Yesterday, just in time for Reformation 2016, NPR ran this story on the way that Pope Francis has been talking about Martin Luther and the issues around the Reformation.  This week-end, he will be in Sweden kicking off a year-long celebration as we approach the 500 year anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his theses on the Wittenberg door in 1517.

Unlike Catholics of past generations, Pope Francis has talked about Martin Luther as a great man:  "On his flight back to Rome from Armenia, the pope told reporters: 'The church was not a role model, there was corruption, there was worldliness, there was greed, and lust for power. He protested against this. And he was an intelligent man.'"

I love that Pope Francis is open to the idea of a Lutheran-Catholic reunion of sorts.  He recently said that a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic man could take communion in his church if her conscience told her it was O.K.

I admire that Pope Francis moves cautiously towards a rapprochement.  Some have called it a "walking ecumenism."  Jens-Martin Kruse, pastor of the Lutheran Church in Rome, says, "Walking together, we find that we have lots of things more in [common than] we thought before."

I love this metaphor--it's walking, not flying on a plane or driving in a car together.  The pace is slow, but steady, which leaves time for talking, time for discovery, time for civilized disagreement--and it's walking, which implies both an ease and a rigor, but not a movement too extreme in either direction.

As we move through these days of political extremes, I give thanks for a man like Pope Francis who shows us a way to move through our differences towards a reunion.

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