(Article written for the Fano-Pesaro-Urbino Diocese’s newspaper: “Il nuovo amico” about the experience of prayer in Malmö)
Many would have read about encounter between Catholics and Lutherans of Lund and Malmö in Sweden last October the thirty-first, where on the occasion of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Pope Francis, has signed together with the President of the Lutheran World Federation, Bishop Munib A . Younan, a historic joint statement. On the event itself, you can easily find dozens of colorful content articles but perhaps not everyone knows that in the packed hall of Malmö Arena, there were also nine from Fano’s parishes: “Great Mother of God” and “Holy Family” , accompanied by their priests.
Just under a year ago, at the height of a period of mutual knowledge, our parishes have signed a twinning official partnership with the Lutheran parish of Vreta Kloster of the Diocese of Linköping in Sweden. All of you know the history and religious differences which led us to division, but when you measure them with mutual affection, many references change semblance. So it happened to stop looking at what our friends were different to get us to discover how many things we could share, without ever being less respect for each other’s traditions. When you find out we really are sons of the same baptism it starts to be gradually more and more difficult to find justification to all the ideological and material obstacles you encounter in trying to feel part of the same family in every way. Each of these obstacles become like a small internal wound that hurts you at the right point so to always keep you from enjoying the fullness of what you’re experiencing. You experience pain in faded projects and missed words like in hugs and sincere smiles. It is as in a pair. When there is not that communion you want from the bottom of your heart, there can never be true happiness. Even in good times.
In the face of human history I couldn’t say if 500 years are many or few, but now I know for sure, that for Christians who filled the Malmö Arena, is a period that has reached the limit of their endurance. During prayer and joint gestures that afternoon of October, I felt all the pain that I had accumulated evaporate, and with mine, the one of my Italian and Swedish friends, African, Asian and all the others present. I saw it dissolve under the roar of spontaneous applause as well as slip away in silent tears. I’ve heard actually won in the words of the joint statement which was officially signed and which ends with these words:
“We appeal to all the parishes and Lutheran and Catholic communities, because they are courageous and creative, joyful and full of hope in their commitment to continue the great adventure that awaits us. Rather than the conflicts of the past, God’s gift of unity among of us will drive collaboration and deepen our solidarity and joining us in faith to Christ, praying together, listening to each other, experiencing the love of Christ in our relationships, we, Catholics and Lutherans, we open ourselves to the power of the Triune God rooted in Christ and witness to him, let us renew our determination to be faithful heralds of God’s infinite for all mankind. ”
The prayer in Malmö was without doubt a unique event that certainly has all the credentials to be remembered for a long time. An event that has had the power to warm the hearts of both those who felt the desire to find distant friends, but also of those who feel the call to all those who geographically, by material needs and perhaps by common religious profession, seem already close but they are not or not ever been.
It is also clear that it can not by itself have mended a tear that we should not believe less broad and ragged than it really is; but fills our hearts with hope. Because today, inspired by it, every baptized person on earth may feel called and fully legitimized, to seek out and work for other chance of meeting. Each pastoral council can make its principles and perpetrate it, still, and still more, more and more consciously. Having taken part of it with already twinned parishes was not only a great experience on the human level but also the way to have found true confirmation of what the heart and mind already knew but still trembled at the thought of having to demonstrate. From now speak of ecumenical exchanges between Lutheran and Catholic churches will no longer be simply a look to the future with hope, but it means for everyone to follow a clear furrow that were our pastors to trace. The 500 year old pain does not clear with a signature on a document, but I’m sure in many we will start counting again from zero: no longer the years of division, but those that separate us from the newfound full Eucharistic communion.