Tomorrow we Lutherans around the globe celebrate Reformation Sunday, which always falls on the last Sunday in October. Then, on October 31, which is our Lutheran official Reformation Day, there will be a special commemoration ecumenical worship service in Lund, Sweden to kick off the year long celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. For the first time in Lutheran history, a Roman Catholic pope, Francis will also be celebrating the event with us Lutherans. This certainly is a significant gesture on the pope's part towards unity within Christendom.
However, as the cartoon suggests, we Lutherans still have significant doctrinal and ecclesiological issues to settle with the Roman Catholic Church before we can reach enough consensus to have full communion with them. We have moved in that direction with other denominations, especially in North America. Here in Canada, for example, we have full communion with the Anglicans. In the United States however, the altar and pulpit fellowship extends also to several other denominations within the Reformed family of churches.
One sign of hope for future relations and dialogues with the Roman Catholics is a couple of statements Francis has made regarding Martin Luther, whom he called an intelligent man, and a comment about a Lutheran woman being able to commune in a Roman Catholic church with her husband who is R.C., that if she believed she could commune with a clear conscience, she may be able to do so.
Whether or not we Lutherans and Roman Catholics will be able to resolve our differences regarding papal authority, the doctrine of ordained ministry-including women clergy and married clergy, Mariology and the definition and criteria of sainthood, and the number and nature of the sacraments remains to be seen.
Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17 is thus an ongoing one for us Lutherans and Roman Catholics.