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Pope Francis looks ahead to the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea in 2025

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA

Pope Francis meets with ecumenical delegation from Finland on Jan. 17, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2022 / 05:30 am (CNA).

In an ecumenical meeting with a Lutheran delegation on Monday, Pope Francis pointed to the upcoming 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea as a source of unity between Christians.

“Dear friends, we have set out on a journey led by God’s kindly light that dissipates the darkness of division and directs our journey towards unity,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 17.

“We have set out, as brothers and sisters, on the journey towards ever fuller communion.”

Pope Francis received an ecumenical delegation from Finland at the Vatican. The group traveled to Rome on pilgrimage for the feast of Saint Henrik, a 12th century bishop of Finland who is revered by Catholics, Lutherans, and Anglicans.

In the meeting, the pope pointed to the upcoming anniversaries of two major events in Church history as moments that can help Christians to see the goal of unity more clearly.

“In 2025, we will celebrate the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea. The Trinitarian and Christological confession of that Council, which acknowledges Jesus to be ‘true God from true God’ and ‘consubstantial with the Father,’ unites us with all those who are baptized,” Pope Francis said.

The First Council of Nicaea held in 325 A.D. was called by emperor Constantine to confront the Arian heresy, which denied Christ’s divinity. The council promulgated the Nicene Creed, which is still accepted by Orthodox, Anglican, and other Protestant denominations.

“In view of this great anniversary, let us renew our enthusiasm for journeying together in the way of Christ, in the way that is Christ. For we need him and the newness and incomparable joy that he brings. Only by clinging to him will we reach the end of the path leading to full unity,” the pope said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Pope Francis also highlighted that 2030 will mark the 500th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession.

The Augsburg Confession included 28 articles presented by Lutheran princes in 1530 for approval by the Catholic Church. The Church responded with a Confutation that accepted 9 articles, approved 6 with qualifications, and condemned 13 articles.

“At a time when Christians were about to set out on different paths, that Confession attempted to preserve unity,” Pope Francis said.

“We know that it did not succeed in preventing division, but the forthcoming anniversary can serve as a fruitful occasion to encourage and confirm us on our journey of communion, so that we can become more docile to God’s will, and less to human strategies, more disposed to prefer to earthly aims the route pointed out by Heaven.”

The delegation from Finland included Jukka Keskitalo, the bishop of Oulu in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and Bishop Teemu Sippo, the retired Catholic bishop of Helsinki.

Sippo was the first Finnish-born Catholic bishop to be appointed since the 16th century. More than 68% of Finland’s population is Lutheran, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Representatives from the Sámi, Finland’s indigenous people – the only indigenous people of the European Union – were also present for the papal meeting.

“It is with particular joy that I welcome and greet the Sámi representatives,” Pope Francis said.

“May God accompany you on the journey towards reconciliation and healing of memory, and make all Christians free and determined in the earnest search for truth.”

The ecumenical meeting occurred one day ahead of the official start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity January 18-25.

Pope Francis has asked Catholics to offer up their “difficulties and sufferings” during this week for the unity of Christians.

“When will unity be achieved? One wonders, isn’t that right? A great Orthodox theologian who is a specialist in eschatology said, ‘Unity will be in the eschaton.’ But the path to unity is important. It is very good that theologians study, discuss,” the pope told the Finnish delegation.

“But it is also good that we, God’s faithful people, go together on the journey. Together. And we make unity through prayer, through works of charity, through working together. I know you are going down that path, and I thank you so much,” he said.

“Let us keep our gaze ever fixed on Jesus (cf. Heb 12:2) and remain close to one another in prayer,” Pope Francis said.

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  1. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, the year 2030 also marks the 31st year since the running-start signing of the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” (1999).

    The document as a whole provides a lesson in robust ecumenism—-as being open to possibly needed precision and clarifications on even fundamental (not fundamentalist) points. The Preface remarks that to be correctly read, the Declaration must be read together with the Annex…

    The Annex addresses possible ambiguities by explaining, for example, the core difference between concupiscence and total depravity of the soul:

    “It follows that the concupiscence that remains in the baptized is not, properly speaking, sin. For Catholics, therefore, the formula “at the same time righteous and sinner”, as it is explained at the beginning of n. 29 (“Believers are totally righteous, in that God forgives their sins through Word and Sacrament…. Looking at themselves … however, they recognize that they remain also totally sinners. Sin still lives in them “) is not acceptable. This statement does not, in fact, seem compatible with the renewal and sanctification of the interior man of which the Council of Trent speaks.”

    Lutheran versions of the Declaration on the Internet are simplified to not include the integral Annex.

    • The exact wording of the “Preface” includes:

      “The solemn confirmation of this Joint Declaration on 31 October 1999 in Augsburg, by means of Official Common Statement with its Annex, represent an ecumenical event of historic significance.” (signed by the Catholic Cardinal Cassidy and Bishop Kasper, and the Lutheran Krause and Noko, both of the Lutheran World Federation).

      The exact wording of the ANNEX, dealing with sin and cooperation with grace, and refined from my earlier and separate reference, reads in part:

      “…The concept of ‘concupiscence’ is used in different senses on the Catholic and Lutheran sides. In the Lutheran Confessional writings ‘concupiscence’ is understood as the self-seeking desire of the human being, which in light of the law, spiritually understood, is regarded as sin. In the Catholic understanding concupiscence is an inclination, remaining in human beings even after baptism, which comes from sin and presses toward sin. Despite the differences involved here, it can be recognized from a Lutheran perspective that desire can become an opening through which sin attacks…” (Section 2A).

  2. The role of Catholicism is to baptise as many as possible into the Divine Instituion. It us not to frighten as many out as possible and push the freemasonic one world agenda. Apostasy. Pure. Simple. Undiluted. Negation of the princple Divine Charge of the Vicar if Christ. Jesus wants everyone to unite through baptism inside His Church not outside it and against it. Would it be up to laymen to cry this out to Rome on Catholic Websites if this were not the Great Apostasy?

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