by MICHAEL OTTO
A New Zealand Catholic theologian has noted some of the theological and spiritual insights all churches have received through the Protestant Reformation.
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NZ Catholic asked Fr Mervyn Duffy, SM, a member of the Catholic-Methodist dialogue of New Zealand, to comment on parts of a new ecumenical prayer service guideline written to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
The service, released on January 11, was prepared by a task force made up of representatives of the official Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity.
Catholic bishops’ conferences and Lutheran churches around the world are invited to use the prayer service as part of local commemorations of the anniversary in 2017.
Included is material to be adapted to local liturgical and musical traditions of Catholic and Lutheran churches.
One prayer in the service states: “Thanks be to you O God for the many guiding theological and spiritual insights that we have received through the Reformation.”
The prayer also notes the challenges and transformations sparked by the Reformation and its strengthening the lives
of countless people.
NZ Catholic asked Fr Duffy to comment on the guiding theological and spiritual insights received from the Reformation.
Fr Duffy said “one aspect of ecumenical dialogue is what is called ‘receptive ecumenism’, where members of one church look at the experience of church life of their partners in dialogue and attempt to identify elements of sanctification and truth that can and ought [to] be emulated”.
He noted that “the Reformation was a traumatic period of European history that involved wars and persecution in the name of religion”.
Fr Duffy continued: “Theological and spiritual insights that come from our reflection on that period of history would have to include: the valuing of the informed conscience of an individual, the importance of sacred Scripture in the lives of individual believers, the possibility of different ecclesial structures and ministerial models, the value and power of worship in vernacular languages, the importance of active participation in liturgy, and the value of congregational singing.”
He prefaced his response to NZ Catholic by stating: “The bishops of the Second Vatican Council taught (Lumen Gentium, 8) that ‘many elements of sanctification and truth are found outside of [the Catholic Church’s] visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling towards Catholic unity’.”
The Catholic News Service reported that Pope Francis intends to take part in a joint Catholic-Lutheran ceremony in Sweden in October to mark the anniversary of the Reformation. Francis will lead an ecumenical commemoration alongside a Lutheran bishop and the secretary of the Lutheran World Federation.
A Vatican statement noted: “The event will include common worship based on the recently published Catholic-Lutheran ‘Common Prayer’ liturgical guide.”
The event will also highlight ecumenical developments between Catholics and Lutherans over the past 50 years.
The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, stated that “by concentrating together on the centrality of the question of God and on a Christocentric approach, Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility of an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, not simply in a pragmatic way, but in the deep sense of faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ”.
NZ Catholic understands that a new Catholic-Methodist-Anglican ecumenical organisation is to be launched in Wellington in late February.

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