By Vatican News staff writer
Fr Martin Junge has been General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation for the last 11 years. In this time he guided the communion of 148 churches. On Friday the Lutheran World Federation met with the Pope in the Vatican. This was the last meeting with Junge as General Secretary as in November Pastor Anne Burghardt will take over the role of General Secretary. After the meeting with the Pope, Fr Junge spoke to Vatican News' Gudrun Sailer about the meeting and the hopes for the future of the Lutheran World Federation.
What does it mean for Lutherans all over the world to meet the Pope in the Vatican on the day of the commemoration of the Augsburg Confession?
It has been extremely important and meaningful for us, the Augusburg Confession is quite a foundational document for us as Lutherans globally, it is the confession on which we stand together as a global Communion of churches. To have the opportunity to have that encounter with Pope Francis on that very day - also looking ahead to the year 2030, when we will be commemorating 500 years of the Confessor Augustana - and already today thinking what could this confessional writing, which is deep ecumenical insight and commitment, mean for us in 9 years. So it's important for us today also in view of marking the hope we have for our journey ahead.
Pope Francis has described the common journey of Catholics' and Lutherans' ecumenism, from conflict to communion, as a crisis. A crisis that is a blessing from the Lord however. How did you take this interpretation?
Well the Pope was giving deeply theological insight. On the one hand I believe being taken into the journey and the mission of God is probably always a moment of crisis . Luther spoke of the exercise of daily going back to baptism as a way of also indicating how things change in life . At the same time we live in very difficult times today for the Church, for people altogether, in view of the pandemic and so many changes and so much anxiety and insecurity that comes with it. How in such a moment will we be able to continue seeing the gift of Christ in the midst of it all. But particularly also the work of the Holy Spirit, that creates, reconciles and renews in an ongoing way, is a great reminder to remain hopeful and to walk and journey together with eyes and ears very open to discern God's work in our times
As a gift your delegation gave the Pope a patten and a chalice from the workshop of Taizé, the seed of the ecumenical community of the same name. What hope does the choice of this gift express?
I believe both for the ecumenical dialogue but particularly also for believers in the Catholic and the Lutheran Churches, unity will become tangible and complete at the moment in which we are able to gather at the table that the Lord serves for us and where the Lord offers himself to us. So I think this is a hope we share. Let me say that next to the beautiful gift with we received from Taizé to prepare this chalice and patten, (it was also prepared with sand from the refugee camp in Zaatari in Jordan) we wanted to make sure that we connected also the chalice and patten with the suffering of the people we are serving, and with the suffering of Christ himself on the cross, and how that suffering - passion in Latin - invigorates our own passion to continue working and journing to move away from conflict and embrace communion which is a gift ahead of us.
The next big step in ecumenism between Lutherans and Catholics is about church ministry and the Eucharist, the Pope said. In what way is this a particular challenge in your point of view ?
I believe these are the three ultimate questions: Eucharist , because of what I just said yet at the same time acknowledging that in my perception the questions around the Eucharist are probably the ones we will more easily come to similar conclusions, the harder questions are the questions around church and ministry. We come with a very strong tailwind into this discussion, we still carry the energy and the whole development that started with the second Vatican council, which enabled all the ecumenical journey with the Catholic church, in which we are today. We remember of course in 1999 the day of the signature of the joint declaration on the Doctrine of Justification as a landmark event, a foundation, which made it possible for us to plan and to envision a joint commemoration on the Reformation Anniversary. On that occasion we were graced by the presence and participation of Pope Francis in the cities of Lund and Malmo in Sweden 2016 in 2016.
It will require a time, it will require hope, it will require creativity to find the avenues and the ways through which we will get there. I was particularly grateful to hear Pope Francis referring to reconciliation and difference, which I think is a term which is very close to us in the Lutheran World Federation. Reconciled diversity is something which we embrace as a concept that Is important to us . So, with tailwind we are coming to this moment with hope, we are opening up to watch 2030 and to take the next steps in the dialogue we need to have.