Cardinal O'Malley, N.E. Lutheran bishop express hope for 'full unity'

BRAINTREE -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley and Bishop James Hazelwood of the Evangelical Lutheran Church's New England Synod have released a joint letter announcing preparations for the observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The joint letter follows the Oct. 30 release of "Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharist," an ecumenical document issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that marks a pathway toward greater visible unity between Catholics and Lutherans.

A statement from the archdiocese and the New England Synod released Nov. 12, said the letter from Cardinal O'Malley and Bishop Hazelwood was written "in the spirit of a commitment to the journey to full unity."

"Five centuries after Western Civilization split into two halves, Catholic and Protestant, and more than 50 years of international dialogue, the two sides are using the 500th anniversary of the Reformation to move closer together. From now until October 2017, with cooperative ventures in service, arts, academics, and evangelization, it is the hope and prayer of Catholics and Lutherans that this effort will contribute to advancing the goal of full unity," the statement said.

Quoting the joint letter by Cardinal O'Malley and Bishop Hazelwood, the statement notes that "our common ground lies in the life-giving Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We share one baptism into Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior."

"As we proceed toward this observance, we give thanks for our mutual baptism into Christ Jesus and our irrevocable commitment to full visible unity. For this we must all work and pray," it continues.

Referring to the upcoming commemorations of the anniversary of the Reformation, Vito Nicastro, the archdiocese's associate director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said that "this is a mission driven event. In fact all ecumenism is an evangelization opportunity because our unity is around the Gospel. The opportunity to learn from each other is exciting. The worldwide observance is turning this event into a sign of hope."

Bishop Hazelwood said, "this is an opportunity to pursue a shared commitment to our journey toward full unity. We are coming together around our common agreement on the heart of the Gospel."

"I believe it is essential that we listen together to our responsibility to the environment while we serve the world together. This is one example of our desire to connect to the regional, national, and international ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation. In this time, we can embody a new reformation that puts our differences aside in the interest of our common home," Bishop Hazelwood added.