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Catholics and Lutherans in new ecumenical liturgy initiative

posted Jan 15, 2016, 7:40 PM by Vidal Martinez

'It offers an opportunity to look back in thanksgiving'

The Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) have issued common liturgical guidelines for ecumenical services to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge and Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity President Cardinal Kurt Koch made the announcement in a joint letter to leaders of the two Churches.

The guidelines, published in a booklet titled Common Prayer, provide a template for an ecumenical service, complete with suggested prayers, appropriate hymns and themes for sermons..

The Catholic Church in Germany originally balked at the proposal, the paper says, but talks between the LWF and the PCPCU led to a 93-page report titled From Conflict to Communion in 2013 that announced the two Churches would mark the anniversary together.

"This common prayer marks a very special moment in our common journey from conflict to communion. We are grateful for being able to invite you to participate in this journey in witnessing to the grace of God in the world," Rev. Junge and Cardinal Koch wrote in their joint letter.

The document is the first jointly developed liturgical order prepared by a liturgical task force created by the two bodies, an LWF statement says.

The Common Prayer includes materials that can be adapted to local liturgical and musical traditions of churches in the two Christian traditions and is structured around the themes of thanksgiving, repentance and commitment to common witness.

The aim is to express the gifts of the Reformation and ask forgiveness for the division perpetuated by Christians from the two traditions, the LWF says.

"It offers an opportunity to look back in thanksgiving and confession and look ahead, committing ourselves to common witness and continuing journey," the preface to the Common Prayer states.