By Bishop Ann Svennungsen

Raised in a Lutheran home, I sensed that the biggest stumbling block in Lutheran-Catholic relations was the requirement that, if a Lutheran married a Catholic, all the children had to be raised Catholic. It wasn’t fair (and fairness was next to godliness for us). We were good Lutherans. We could raise good Christians in the Lutheran church as well.

I even remember someone telling me it would be better to marry a non-Christian than a Catholic. At least, you might be able to raise your kids as Lutherans.

Praise God, a lot has changed since my childhood. Oh, some of the changes are the result of secularism – where Catholic and Lutheran parents both simply hope their children will grow up as faithful Christians, regardless of denomination. And, at least one issue in Catholic-Lutheran relations still seems pretty unfair to me. (As you may guess, it is related to the role of women.)


THIS FRIDAY, ARCHBISHOP Bernard Hebda and I will accompany a 60-member choir on the “Together in Hope” trip to Rome – an ecumenical project working to advancing Christian unity through music and the arts. Led by co-conductors Mark Stover (formerly St. Olaf College music department) and Teri Larson (St. Mary’s Basilica music director), the choir will sing at:

  • The 17th annual Festival Internazionale di Musica e Arte Sacra on October 31 at the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
  • The 4:00 p.m. All Saints Day Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on November 1

The Choir will perform both the Holy Spirit Mass, commissioned in 2017 for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and the world premiere of the newly commissioned So That the World May Believe – a Motet for Unity and Service, dedicated to Pope Francis for his many initiatives of reconciliation.

In 2016, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly overwhelmingly approved the “Declaration on the Way.” Celebrating 50 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogues, the declaration includes 32 statements of agreement, as well as 15 areas of difference, with encouragement that Lutherans and Catholics commit to the ongoing work toward unity.

“In 2016, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly overwhelmingly approved the ‘Declaration on the Way.’”

The Declaration on the Way concludes with several suggestions for that ongoing work, such as:

  • recommending that the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church create a process and timetable for addressing the remaining issues of disagreement;
  • establishing regional Lutheran-Catholic working groups, convened by the regional bishops; and
  • encouraging Catholic and Lutheran parishes to develop covenants for joint prayer and service.

I am delighted that Archbishop Hebda and I will both be on this trip. He brings wonderful gifts to the church, including a strong commitment to ecumenism. If the “Together in Hope” trip is intended to promote unity, I find great hope simply in the opportunities for conversation between the two of us.

Jesus prayed that “all may be one.” We join together to work and pray for the fulfillment of that promise.