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Lutheran and Catholic agencies sign declaration of intent on climate change and refugee crisis

31 October 2016 | by Christopher Lamb

Agreement between Caritas Internationalis and LWF World Service not an NGO alliance more a sign of common faith

Catholic and Lutheran charitable arms have pledged to work more closely together in assisting refugees and combating climate change following an event where Pope Francis hailed a closer co-operation of the churches on social justice. 

The two bodies, Caritas Internationalis and LWF World Service, have signed a “declaration of intent” as an event in Malmo Arena took place hearing testimonies of Catholics and Lutherans in areas such as India, Burundi, South Sudan and Kenya. 

It was the latest move to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformation which the Pope flew to Sweden to attend: today he praised the declaration as a sign of "a culture of collaboration for the promotion of human dignity and social justice." 

But at a press conference after the event the church leaders denied this amounted to an “NGO ecumenism” where social action took precedence over solving intractable doctrinal disputes. 

“I want to reject the notion: it is not an NGO alliance,” Rev Martin Junger, the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation said in an answer to a question from The Tablet. “It comes out of a deep faith commitment. The wonderful work we are doing is grounded in our common faith.” 

He added that there were “many strands” nurturing ecumenism and working together in charitable endeavours did not preclude close theological dialogue.  

Sweden’s Lutheran leader Archbishop Antje Jackelén stressed that the churches had in the past put an emphasis on condemning sexual sins but transgressions in the fields of social justice were more serious. 

“The sins of greed, the sins of economic injustice, climate change, they have far greater consequences than that of sexual behaviour,” she said. 

Earlier a 10,000 strong crowd gathered at the Malmo Arena where prayers were taken from the the Pope’s environment encyclical “Laudato Si’”; Pranita Biswasi, an Indian Lutheran, talked about the effect of climate change and Catholic Bishop Héctor Fabio Henao Gaviria of Colombia talked about the need for peace in his country. 

“I share your concern about the abuses harming our planet, our common home, and causing grave effects on the climate,” the Pope said, responding to the testimonies. “As we say in my country, in the end it’s the poor who pay the price for the big party.”

Francis also went on to thank “all those governments that assist refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers” while the Catholic Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, spoke of the plight of Syrians in the war-torn country. 

The audience was multi-national reflecting the large number of refugees that have been welcomed into Sweden - many of them the Catholics - and the event reflected the globe’s different languages and cultures, including a representative of the indigenous Nordic people, the Sami. 

Francis entered the arena on a Pope-mobile golf buggy which he shared with the President of the Lutheran World Federation, Bishop Munip Younan. And despite the Swedes renowned scepticism of organised religion, the Pope walked onto the stage to chants of “Papa Francesco”. 

PICTURE - A 10,000 strong crowd joined Pope Francis, the President of the Lutheran World Federation, Bishop Munip Younan and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven at the Malmo Arena where prayers were taken from the Pope’s environment encyclical 'Laudato Si'



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