Greetings to the Pope
from Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson
A Message from Bishop Mark S. Hanson
President of the Lutheran World Federation and
Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
To Pope Benedict XVI
version en español
I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on behalf of the Lutheran World Federation – A Communion of Churches and the members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
Our ecumenical journey is testimony to Jesus’ prayer that we might be one as He and the Father are one so that the world may believe. We are confident that the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire us to make visible our unity in Christ and make powerful our witness to the world. Let us be known for the faith that unites us rather than the issues that separate us.
In living out Jesus’ prayer in John 17, the ELCA’s ecumenical statement, Ecumenism: The Vision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, affirms that we seek in our faith and life “to manifest the unity given to the people of God by living together in the love of Christ and by joining with other Christians in prayer and action to express and preserve the unity which the Spirit gives.”
As Catholics and Lutherans, we have a renewed commitment to unity in Christ. We are thankful for the signs of unity between us that reflect this renewed commitment. The celebrations we shared for the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) have been joyful occasions of hope. The JDDJ gives us a very strong foundation for moving toward one another in future dialogue.
Our current dialogues, “Baptism and Growth in Communion” and “The Hope of Eternal Life,” are important for our relationships and the hope for unity in Christ. We realize with you that we have challenges before us as we address concerns in the areas of ethics, morality, and theology. We pray for the Spirit’s guidance in our biblical and theological conversations and as we grow in faith and life.
Together we mourn the loss of life and the destruction that has fallen upon God’s people in Haiti. We extend our sympathy on the death of Haitian Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, a servant leader who was known for his closeness to the poor. As we are deeply moved by the cries and testimony coming from the Haitian people, we know that God calls us to accompany those living in poverty so that together we may work to eliminate poverty wherever it exits.
In our weekly liturgy, Lutherans pray in the Kyrie “for the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the church of God, and for the unity of all.” Your words for peace in God’s world have provided guidance for all Christians. As Lutherans, we welcome your spiritual counsel linking peace and justice, poverty, and the environment. We are grateful that you and Pope John Paul II have so powerfully challenged Christians to confront poverty in order to build peace.
We received with gratitude your 2010 New Year’s greeting of peace. Your theme, “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation,” is a priority for the Lutheran World Federation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. As stewards of God’s creation, we have a shared responsibility to protect earth, water, and air as gifts that God the Creator intends for everyone.
It is our fervent hope that we will find ways to join Catholics in responding more fully to address poverty and human need. We join in your prayer that in order to cultivate peace, we must protect creation. As stewards of God’s creation, it is essential that we work to preserve life and creation for future generations.
With you, we pray for peace. In your leadership you have called for peace throughout the world and particularly in the Middle East. As Lutherans, we share this call and commitment with you and the leaders of the Abrahamic faiths. This time calls for Jews, Christians, and Muslims to deepen our understanding of one another and our resolve to work together to build a world of peace with justice.
The Lutheran World Federation’s Eleventh Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany in July 2010 is under the theme, “Give Us Today Our Daily Bread.” We affirm the need to care for creation and to serve all God’s people, especially those with greatest need. This theme reflects our conviction that God sends us to respond to the hungry, those who hunger for the Bread of Life, for daily bread, and for justice and peace.
As we continue on the journey toward unity in Christ, it is our hope and prayer that we may make a united witness to the world as we approach 2017. Dr. Ishmael Noko, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, shared with members of the ELCA that the “yearning for unity has made it possible for the Lutheran World Federation to speak and act on behalf of the majority of world Lutherans in the areas of international diakonia and advocacy. It has urged us toward deeper relationships with other Christians, including the landmark ecumenical accomplishment of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.”
Dr. Noko further noted, “We cannot choose the challenges which are presented to faithful Christian witness in our own lifetimes. But in the Lutheran World Federation, we look to the future with hope that we will continue to grow in communion with one another and in unity with the whole Church of Jesus Christ.”
We look forward to opportunities for greater sharing and serving in the name of our Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. With profound respect and admiration for you and your ministry of oversight, we pray for the well-being of the Catholic Church. We also ask that you remember in your prayers the Lutheran World Federation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, even as we promise to remember you in our petitions to our gracious God.