Bishops and pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America greeted Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday as part of an extended ecumenical journey around the world.
In a written greeting to the pope, the 18-member delegation recognized the ecumenical developments made through the years between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic traditions, and iterated a call to jointly celebrate landmark Christian anniversaries in the future.
We yearn for ways to observe jointly the 50th anniversary in 2015 of the promulgation of Dei Verbum from the Second Vatican Council, and to mark in 2017 the 500th anniversary of the events of 1517, particularly in terms of their wholesome contemporary implications for ongoing renewal and reform, the letter stated.
Last November, the top heads of the Lutheran world including the presiding bishop of the ELCA held an official meeting with the Pope at the Vatican, during which they celebrated four decades ecumenical efforts and renewed a commitment to understanding each others traditions.
Wednesdays delegation continued the welcoming message and called for persistent prayer for healing the divisions at the Eucharistic table.
We also beg for God's healing of our hearts and lives as we kneel under the eternal shadow of the Cross," the greeting stated.
In addition to the letter, the Lutheran representatives presented a specially-made icon to the pontiff. According to the ELCA news service, the delegation met the pope following his regular weekly audience at St. Peters Basilica on Wednesday, and plans to meet the pontiff again today.
Following this visit, the bishops will travel to London for the last session of their ecumenical journey.