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Westminster abbey, Anglicans and Catholics to jointly commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. “A new ecumenism”

On October 31st a joint religious service in London will bring together Catholic Primate Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Anglican Primate Justin Welby for what is considered a “historical” event to reflect on past mistakes, to pray and look at the future. SIR addressed the theme with Rev Canon John O’Toole, Ecumenical Officer of the Bishops' Conference of England & Wales, and Anglican priest Dr Callan Slipper, Ecumenical Officer for the Church of England

“It’s a historical occasion because for the first time the anniversary of the Reformation will be commemorated in an ecumenical era. Things would have been different in 1917, not to mention 1817 or 1717, when the relations between Catholics and Protestants were not good at all.” Canon John O’Toole is the Ecumenical Officer of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales; next October 31st he will attend the ceremony marking the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation in Westminster Abbey.

Prayers and dialogue. At 12:00 a.m. a religious service presided over by the Dean of the abbey Rev John Hall, will bring together Catholic Primate Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Anglican Primate Justin Welby, Catholic Archbishop Bernard Longley, chair of the ARCIC Commission for Anglican-Catholic dialogue, along with representatives of the Lutheran Churches. We will jointly remember when Luther broke away from the Roman Catholic Church because the idea that he posted the Ninety-five Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church and other churches in Wittenberg is the fruit of Christian popular imagination”, pointed out Revd Dr Callan Slipper, Ecumenical Officer for the Church of England (Anglican Church).

“Liberated by God’s Grace.” Westminster abbey will also welcome bishop Brian Farrell and Fr Tony Currer as representatives of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In the afternoon, the church of St. Margaret, the Anglican parish church of the House of Commons, will be the venue of a symposium titled “Liberated by God’s Grace”, chaired by the bishop of Kensington Graham Tomlin and attended by renowned academics such as Catholic history scholar Eamon Duffy and David Crankshaw, Professor of Christianity at London’s King’s College. For Rev O’Toole “on the 31st of October it will be important to commemorate, not to celebrate the Reformation, because

the division caused deep sorrow and sparked off acts of cruelty.

Luckily we share 50 years of fruitful ecumenical dialogue not only between Catholics and Lutherans but also between Catholics and Methodists and between Catholics and Anglicans.”

The “Joint Declaration.” During the religious function at Westminster abbey Anglican Primate Justin Welby will present the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification”, the document created by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation with which in 1999 they stated that they are no longer separated by the concept of God’s grace, thereby overcoming the divisions caused by the Reformation, to representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The document has been already received by the Anglican Church, by the Methodist and Reform Churches. Today faith and deeds can no longer be referred to as optional concepts and the Bible and the Church are no longer opposite poles, in fact these principles can be integrated. Catholics and Lutherans agree, five-hundred years later, that good deeds are the fruits of salvation, not means to obtain it”, added O’Toole.

Recognizing personal mistakes. “This commemoration prompts a feeling of respect for the work of God acting through the Providence, which by means of the Reformation brought us gifts in the form of spiritual renewal, love for the Scriptures, the conscience of grace and the yearning for a truly pastoral Church where the clergy cares for the people”, said Rev Callan Slipper. “To us Anglicans the Lutheran Reformation reminds us of the English Reformation and

It’s important to do penance and recognize our mistakes,

for the schism of the Church is not something good and we all must start anew while welcoming our mutual gifts. However, from this position of decreased communion we are capable of receiving many of each other’s graces. When we will be a united Church the most positive aspects of the various Christian communions – that include the Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Churches as well as other Christian Churches – will finally be shared. Moreover, we need to listen to each other, for we all have something to teach and to learn.”

Close in spirituality. For Rev Slipper, the celebration of October 31st, when Christian faiths will convene to celebrate their mutual gifts, is the fruit of the so-called “receptive ecumenism”, “a method adopted at many levels of Christian dialogue, that changes the relations between interlocutors.” “We adopt a position of mutual humbleness in profound mutual acceptance,” explained the Officer for Ecumenism of the Church of England. “We are not seeking to transform the other person according to our model but to learn from him.” Through this process “we become more of ourselves because we get rid of things that are not right and we grow stronger in those aspects that advance communion.” The commemoration held at the end of the month will involve ecumenical dialogue between other Christian and Lutheran Churches as well as Catholic-Anglican dialogue, for “our closeness equally involves our spirituality”, Canon Callan Slipper concluded.

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