VATICAN CITY — The dignity of human life, family, marriage and sexuality are “urgent” issues that “cannot be silenced or ignored for fear” of threatening ecumenical achievements, said Pope Francis during an audience with Archbishop Antje Jackelen of Uppsala, Sweden.
Archbishop Jackelen is the primate of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden, also known as the Church of Sweden. She was accompanied to the meeting at the Vatican May 4 by a church delegation.
The dignity of human life, “which is always to be respected,” as well as family, marriage and sexuality are “urgent” issues “that cannot be silenced or ignored for fear of jeopardizing the ecumenical consensus already achieved,” the pope told the delegation.
“It would be a shame if, in these important issues, new confessional differences were consolidated,” he added.
Pope Francis also recalled the recent document “From Conflict to Communion: The Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017,” published by the Lutheran-Catholic Commission for Unity. Preparing for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the document encourages Catholics and Lutherans to acknowledge their common baptism in Christ, asks for continuing theological dialogue and asks for joint efforts to proclaim the Gospel and assist the poor.
“We sincerely hope that this initiative may encourage, with God’s help and collaboration … further steps on the path of unity,” he said, although he recognized that much work still must be done to achieve full and visible unity between the Catholic and Lutheran churches.
The pope also said the call to unity includes a joint commitment to charitable work among those who suffer due to poverty and violence and who are in need of mercy.
“The witness of our persecuted brothers and sisters impels us to grow in fraternal communion,” he continued.
Addressing the archbishop as “my dear sister,” the pope concluded by thanking the Church of Sweden for welcoming many South American immigrants “during the time of the dictatorships.”