The second Reformation – joyfully together again

Hundreds packed Wellington’s Sacred Heart Cathedral on Sunday to witness what could be described as a second Reformation.

The crowd was witnessing New Zealand’s formal commitment to healing the divisions of the Reformation: the 500 year-long separation of Lutherans and Catholics.

The atmosphere was joyful, positive and affirming as Lutheran Bishop Mark Whitfield and Cardinal John Dew led the crowd in lifting their “hearts and minds and voices” together, singing and praying shoulder to shoulder.

Priests, pastors, minsters, religious and congregations from many Christian denominations were there, showing their support and praying for Catholic and Lutheran unity.

They included Assyrian Christians from the ancient city of Niniveh, Anglicans, Presbyterians and Elim Pentecostal faithful, along with Wellington’s Mayor and representatives from – for example – the German Embassy.

Dew said the ecumenical service was “a significant milestone for New Zealand’s Roman Catholic and Lutheran communities,” signaling a commitment to ongoing bridge-building between the Churches.

The text of  the “common prayer” used in the service was selected by the Liturgical Task Force of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity.

“This liturgical order  … offers an opportunity to look back in thanksgiving and confession and look ahead, committing ourselves to common witness and continuing our journey together,” Dew said.

These “characteristics of common prayer mirror the reality of Christian life: shaped by God’s Word, the people are sent out in common witness and service.”

Whitfield’s comments echoed Dew’s.

“I am delighted that we have opportunity in this Reformation Commemoration Year [500th anniversary] to celebrate our common baptism into Christ and to worship together.

“I also look forward to Roman Catholics and Lutherans working together to seek avenues of practical pastoral cooperation and support, and to explore joint worship and ecumenical hospitality for the sake of strengthening a joint witness to the Gospel in Aotearoa-New Zealand.”

The movement towards Lutheran and Catholic Church unity is part of a wider movement to unite all Christians.

In New Zealand, Dew says “we have had dialogues with the Anglicans, Presbyterians and Methodists…[and now]… we officially start working, praying and discussing with the Lutherans as we continue to work towards Christian Unity”.



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