On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Palestine Embassy to the Holy See held a grand ceremony in honor of the Right Reverend MunibYounan Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and President of the Lutheran World Federation. During the ceremony held in Lund city in Sweden on 31 October 2016 , the Lutheran Church represented by Bishop Younan and the Catholic Church represented by His Holiness Pope Francis I signed a unity declaration recognizing there are no longer church-dividing issues between the two Churches.
His Excellency Ambassador Issa Kassissieh welcomed the representatives from both Churches and theambassadors accredited to the Holy See. He lauded the historic leadership role of the Pope toward the unity of the Churches which was first initiated during the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land in 2014 and his meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and the Heads of Churches in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the old city of Jerusalem.
Ambassador Kassissieh also expressed the Palestinian leadership’s pride in the efforts made by Bishop Younan toward the realization of the historic reconciliation and unity between the Lutheran and Catholic Churches. He stated, “Strengthening unity and partnership will significantly contribute to anchoring Christian presence in the Holy Land and the Middle East.” Ambassador Kassissieh also called on all Christian Churches to hold ecumenical prayers forpeace and justice in the Holy city of Jerusalem.
For his part, former Archbishop and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem His Beatitude Michel Sabbah said the ceremony in Lund, Sweden, is a historic event toward the unity of the Churches that has universal human dimensions. “These days,’ he added, “mankind is in dire need for security, peace and human dignity more than any other time. In this historic meeting in Lund the city of Jerusalem has featured in full force as the Head of the Catholic Church represented by His Holiness Pope Francis and the Head of the Lutheran Church represented by the Right Reverend Bishop Munib Younan have come together to recognize a joint agreement. The meeting sends a message to the whole world that the Holy City is in great need for civil peace and the love of God. Peace in Jerusalem will bring about peace in the world.”
Furthermore, Patriarch Sabbah invited philanthropists all over the world to spare no effort toward the preservation of the sanctity and spirituality of the holy city of Jerusalem so that the followers of the three monotheistic religions could live in peace, love of God and harmony, and could defeat the forces of evil and the culture of death, hatred and animosity.
Patriarch Sabbah concluded, “We will continue to pray in Jerusalem with His Holiness the Pope and other Churches, and we will continue to spread love and work for the defeat of the culture of death.”
The Right Reverend Bishop Younan commended the historic reconciliation reached between the Catholic and Lutheran Churches. His Holiness Pope Francis and Bishop Younan for the World Lutheran Federation signed a joint declaration advocating common social work and developing a strategy for future relations between the catholic and Lutheran Churches. In his word, Bishop Younan said, “As a Palestinian refugee who has been embraced by the Church, I feel with every single refugee in the world. I would like to ask world governments and churches to shelter refugees and help resolve their problems justly and righteously. In addition, the city of Jerusalem has to be an open city for the followers of the three monotheistic religions. There can be no peace in the world without Jerusalem.” Finally, Bishop Younan extended gratitude to the Palestinian Embassy to the Holy See for the historic meeting between the Catholic and Lutheran Churches.
Secretary-General of the World Council of Churches Reverend Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit said the meeting will have a positive impact on world ecumenical unity. He also congratulated His Holiness Pope Francis and His Grace Bishop Younan for this historic achievement.
The ceremony was attended by representatives from the Catholic and Lutheran Churches, diplomats to the Vatican, and members of the Palestinian Higher Presidential Higher Committee for Church Affairs.