CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Ecumenical pilgrimage marks anniversary of the Reformation

HONG KONG (SE): To mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, an ecumenical pilgrimage embarked from Hong Kong on a visit to the significant historical places in Germany connected with the split in the Christian faith and then moved onto Rome for an exposure to the leaders of the relationship mending movement of the modern day.
A total of 24 people from the Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic and Methodist Churches, as well as the Church of Christ in China, Tsung Tsin Mission and the Salvation Army joined the venture.
Leaving Hong Kong on May 28 the group headed to Wittenberg in Germany, where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the cathedral, an event which today symbolically represents the beginning of the Reformation.
From there, it was to the thriving ecumenical village of Ottmaring, which houses a truly ecumenical community. Then there was a visit to the Catholic Church in Augsburg, where the Church authorities and the Reformation advocates had held negotiations some 500 years ago.
The next step on the way took the group to Italy for a visit to Trent, the host city to one of the more significant Church councils between 1545 and 1563. Its agenda was fundamentally dealing with the Reformation and has been described as embodying what came to be known as the Counter-Reformation 
From Trent to Rome and finally the Vatican for meetings with representatives from the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission and the Focolare Movement.
The group also spoke with Kurt Cardinal Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and attended the Wednesday audience with Pope Francis at the Paul VI Hall.
The group had the chance of a brief conversation with Pope Francis, who asked for prayers. One in the group then invited him to pray for China. The pope replied that he prays for China every day.
The group presented Pope Francis with a painting of the Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre in Hong Kong as a memento of its visit.
People took turns in leading morning prayer and vespers in their own denominational traditions and the whole group attended a Mass together in Rome on the morning of June 4.
Theresa Lumo Kung, from the Diocesan Ecumenical Commission and a coordinator of the pilgrimage, described the trip as strengthening the bonds among the various Christian denominations in Hong Kong.
She recalled during an interview with the Kung Kao Po that the group had focussed on coming to understand each other better rather than challenging one another.
Kung said the trip gave them a chance to look at the history of the Reformation and reflect, which helps the various denominations to understand their differences and strengthen their unity.
She pointed out that Martin Luther was spoiling for an opportunity to debate on theological principles when he posted his 95 Theses, which she called a good reminder to all of us to listen to different opinions with a view to finding truth.
She described the conflicts among Christian denominations in history as gradually being forgotten in Europe and many Christians are dedicated to promoting ecumenism.
On the other hand, she said the path of ecumenism in Asia has met obstacles due to what she called conservative principles.
Kung stressed that ecumenism calls for mutual acceptance as well as action and she believes that the Church in Germany and Italy has set a good example by promoting ecumenical attitude together with formation work.
Reverend Po Kam-cheong, the general secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council, noticed some really positive examples of ecumenism during the trip.
He was impressed by the Catholic and Lutheran people in the small town of Ottmaring in Germany for their ability to live in the same community and form a habit of praying together every day.
Anglican Bishop Timothy Kwok Chi-pei, from Eastern Kowloon, wrote in reflection upon returning home that the experience of the ecumenical pilgrimage helped him realise that Christian denominations should learn from each other’s strengths and allow mutual appreciation to be the basis of their dialogue.
He reflected that it is important to bear witness to God and spread the gospel together instead of arguing about differences.

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