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Caritas and Lutheran Federation promise to work together

MALMÖ (AsiaNews): At the last event of Pope Francis’ ecumenical visit to Sweden on October 31 in the Malmö Arena, Caritas Internationalis and the Lutheran World Federation Service International signed a declaration of intention to work together in the area of bringing social services to the lost and most marginalised people in the world.

Titled, Together in Hope, the Lutheran World Federation described it as bringing the commitment to common witness and service of Catholics and Lutherans in a world wounded and broken by conflict into focus.

At the Malmö Arena, highlights of the joint work of the social service arms of the two Churches were featured, including care for refugees, peace building and advocacy for climate justice.

Pope Francis stressed at the event where the declaration was signed that dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans has helped both denominations to grow in mutual understanding as evidenced by his presence, ecumenical prayer and the Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification, which was signed by the two Churches in 1999.

He added that dialogue has also enabled them to develop and consolidate a culture of collaboration for the promotion of human dignity and social justice, as reflected in an agreement signed on that day between Caritas and its Lutheran counterpart.

Arriving from the  Lund cathedral by electric car, Pope Francis joined the president of the Lutheran World Federation, Bishop Munib Yunan; the secretary general, Reverend Martín Junge; and the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Kurt Cardinal Koch.

During a short speech, Pope Francis highlighted the desperate situation in Aleppo, Syria.

Bishop Antoine Audo SJ, the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, spoke first and his words were followed by a call to action and then the signing of the joint intention by Caritas and the Lutheran Federation.

Pope Francis stressed the value of the recognition that Christian unity is a priority, “because we realise that much more unites us than separates us.”

He went on to say, “Our dialogue has helped us to grow in mutual understanding. It has fostered reciprocal trust and confirmed our desire to advance towards full communion.”

He added that one fruit of this dialogue has been cooperation between various organisations of the Lutheran Federation, calling it a significant step forward.

He described it as strengthening the spirit of cooperation in the promotion of human dignity and social justice.

“I warmly greet the members of both organisations; in a world torn by war and conflict, they have been, and continue to be, a luminous example of commitment and service to neighbour. I encourage you to advance along the path of cooperation,” he said.

Turning to those who had testified to the frightful situations they face every day, he said, “I share your concern about the abuse harming our planet, our common home, and causing grave effects on the climate.

“All of us, and we Christians in particular, are responsible for protecting creation. Our lifestyle and our actions must always be consistent with our faith. We are called to cultivate harmony within ourselves and with others, but also with God and with his handiwork.”

He then thanked the governments in the world that have given assistance to refugees, displaced persons and asylum-seekers.

“For everything done to help these persons in need of protection is a great gesture of solidarity and a recognition of their dignity,” he said.

Pope Francis described going out to meet the outcast and the marginalised of this world as a manifestation of the tender and merciful love of God, who rejects no one and accepts everyone.

He made special reference to the words of the bishop of Aleppo, a city where even the most fundamental rights are treated with contempt and trampled underfoot.

“Each day the news tells us about the unspeakable suffering caused by the Syrian conflict, which has now lasted more than five years. In the midst of so much devastation, it is truly heroic that men and women have remained there in order to offer material and spiritual assistance to those in need,” he concluded.

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