“A very good conversation”

Pope Benedict XVI offered a special greeting. during Tuesday's Vespers service to the delegation from the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, which included Gunther Beckstein. In an interview from Rome, the EKD synod vice president reports on his meeting with the pope and the current problems of ecumenism, also with regard to the Reformation anniversary in 2017.

We do not want to celebrate this 500th anniversary of the Reformation against the Catholic Church, but together with the Catholics. For it is important to us that ecumenism is one of the central tasks of Christians. That's why we followed in the footsteps of Luther via Milan to Rome and had a very, very good conversation with Pope Benedict XVI.. He has stressed that it is important not to look solely at the 500 years since the Reformation, but also to look at the 1500 years before that. And to confess to each other the guilt that both churches have brought upon themselves in the years after the Reformation. But above all, to see how we can bring Christianity closer to people in a secularized world in the future.

Interviewer: Will there be Catholic involvement now then?

Beckstein: Yes, the pope has promised that the Catholic Church will also be involved. He also pointed out, and this was very remarkable for me, that even earlier popes have pointed out that Luther was an important church leader who also brought his contributions to theology. And this is reinforced by today's pope, who of course, as a German-born pope, also knows Lutheranism in a special way.
Interviewer: Were general similarities and differences in ecumenism also an ie??

Beckstein: This was a big topic and last night we were also invited to the evening vespers in St. The Pope himself gave a speech at the meeting of St. Paul, where he also welcomed our delegation explicitly and in German. The Pope has emphasized that ecumenism is a very central task of Christians, the ONE Church, where unity in diversity must be the goal. This means that the differences are not understood as a quarrel, but as an enrichment of faith.
Interviewer: The opinions of Protestant and Catholic dignitaries in Germany diverge, especially on the subject of pre-implantation diagnostics. Is that, in your opinion, a problem for a common understanding?

Beckstein: So the Pope has explicitly pointed out to us that the question of divergent ideas in the field of ethics is a problem, although with regard to the United Evangelical Lutheran Church this is less the pre-implantation diagnostics, because there just the leading bishop Friedrich is of the clear opinion that there must not be any kind of selection of lives. So he is on the same line as the Catholic Church. More problematic is the question of same-sex partnerships in parishes. The topic was not directly addressed, but it was noticeable that the Pope is not on the side of those who supported this decision.
Interviewer: Both churches are struggling for their faithful, both are increasingly preaching in empty churches. Isn't that also where cooperation is inevitable?

Beckstein: It is indeed important that in a time when Christians are becoming a minority, also in parts of Germany and in the area of the Arab countries, where we are a very small minority, the message of Jesus Christ is not obscured by disputes among Christians. It is our task to make sure that people are made aware of this message. It is also something wonderful to have a personal God who forgives guilt and to carry this message is given to all of us. There are certain theological differences about the function of the pope, about the question of the ministry as a whole and the question of the common communion in faith-divergent marriages. This ie has also been raised, but of course not resolved. But this is the task, that Christians can celebrate their faith with each other and do not put the dividing things in the foreground, but the common Christian basis. The Bible and our Lord God are given to us together.

Interview: Heike Sikoni

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