Joint event on Christian unity reflects on baptism, prays for dialogue

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Photo: Centro Pro Unione
Photo: Centro Pro Unione

Among the activities for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan. 18-25), The Lay Centre joined Centro Pro Unione in hosting an event that reflected on the gifts all Christians share through their baptism and prayed for a renewed dialogue, on Jan. 19.

Rev. Dr. Dirk G. Lange, assistant general secretary for ecumenical relations at the Lutheran World Federation, spoke on the theme “Baptism: Ecclesiological Implications of the Latest Lutheran-Roman Catholic Joint Commission.” Rev. Lange is also a professor of worship at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minneapolis, where he holds the Frederik A. Schiotz Chair of Christian Missions.

Rev. Lange spoke of his participation in the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Joint Commission, whose work led to the publication of a report that represents a concrete engagement in dialogue among the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Lutheran World Federation. 

The report points to the ongoing study and discussion to sort out ambiguities and misunderstandings among members of these Christian traditions. It declares the will to continue dialogue based on a mutual recognition of baptism between Catholics and Lutherans. 

The goal of unity, he said in a recent interview, is “a dynamic of growth that includes within it continual discovery, participation, and sharing.”

“There is always something unfinished in this growth, which cannot be defined as a ‘defect’ to be corrected, but rather as a mutual invitation into ongoing growth,” he said. 

The lecture was followed by an ecumenical Celebration of the Word, led by The Lay Centre community. Clemency Flitter, ordinand of the Church of England and a Lay Centre resident, shared a reflection on the readings. 

“To reach out with love, to deconstruct systems of injustice, to seek unity, is not part of the kingdom of God. It is the kingdom of God. Though we were once far off, through Christ we may be one,” she said.

Other members of the community led different moments of prayer; Alex Campbell and Fabjola Lekaj performed a musical interlude.

Concluding the Week of Prayer with a Vespers service Jan. 25, Pope Francis underlined the need for a common journey, arising from a true desire for unity. He recalled the theme of this year's Week of Prayer – “Do good; seek justice” (Is 1:17) – explaining that God admonishes us to renounce evil and urges us to change.

A culture of encounter is strongly encouraged by Pope Francis, who was in Congo and South Sudan on his 40th apostolic trip at the time of publication. He was traveling to South Sudan with Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland. Archbishop Welby said of their trip that they go “as brothers in Christ to worship together and witness to the God who reconciles us.”

The joint event held by the Centro Pro Unione and The Lay Centre was rooted in a tradition that dates to the 1960s, when the “Foyer Unitas Casa” was at Piazza Navona. In the Palazzo Pamphili, the collaboration between the Ladies of Bethany and the Friars of the Atonement began in view of the Second Vatican Council. The Lay Centre inherited this tradition from the Ladies of Bethany.

Watch the video of the event, produced by the Centro Pro Unione, below:


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