Benedict XVI's Visit to the Lutheran Community of Rome confirms once again what Joseph Ratzinger, as a very young lecturer in Freising, discovered on reading with his students the texts of the Reformation period: namely, that, among the Christians divided for almost five centuries, the patrimony they possess in common is really important; to the point that it represents a basis which, examined in depth and shared, can bring them even closer.
Cardinal Ratzinger had already said this in 1998 at a meeting with the same Evangelical Community of Rome and the rapprochement has continued ever since. To the extent that the Pope has now said that the first point is not division but rather joy and hope, because the already existing unity can and must be strengthened.
Joy and hope could be felt tangibly during the moving joint celebration of Laetare Sunday, the “little Easter” ( Klein-Ostern ), mentioned by Pastor Jens-Martin Kruse in his homily on the beginning of the Second Letter to the Corinthians. He spoke in tones that several times intersected with the Homily delivered by the Bishop of Rome – who was welcomed and greeted with great warmth by Doris Esch, President of the Community, and by the whole assembly – on the passage from the Gospel in which John recounts the desire of some Greeks to see Jesus. During a Liturgy that was composed but at the same time deeply felt, in which the prayer of the Pastor, facing the Crucifix, alternated with the proclamation of the Creed, hymns and invocations.
The liturgical season itself, which is a preparation for Easter, and the scriptural passages read remind Christians that joy, hope and crosses, as both Pastor Kruse and Benedict XVI said, are part and parcel of reality and always go together. Just as Christians must journey on together and not on parallel paths, supporting one another in tribulation, as the Pastor significantly stressed.
And they must do so even in a situation of sin, such as that of division, a wound that only the Lord can heal: it is only by looking to Christ that it will in fact be possible to attain unity, for only he can create it, the Pope repeated in an exemplary and moving explanation of the Gospel.
Like the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus, today too, Benedict XVI said, “every human being is seeking God”. And today too the Risen One can come for all “the Greeks”, that is for every human person, in the Church and outside her visible boundaries.
The main task of Christians today is to witness to this reality of which many are, perhaps, unaware, and thus make room for God in societies that want to forget or to ban him. A task the Pope is the first to set himself and to which, with firm meekness, in spite of misunderstandings and attacks, he continues to emphasize.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 23, 2019
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