This coming Sunday afternoon the Holy Father will pay a visit to a Lutheran Church in Rome. The much anticipated appearance is the fruit of an invitation made in 2008 on the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit there.
The Evangelical Lutheran Community of Rome "is glad that Pope Benedict XVI, bishop of our city, accepted to participate in our worship," said the church's pastor, Rev. Jens-Martin Kruse on the community's website.
According to SIR News, the community said it "sees in the visit of the Bishop of Rome a sign of more mature and stronger ecumenical relations" which, it added, has become "standard practice" through the years.
"For Pope Benedict, ecumenism is a fundamental objective of his pontificate," the Lutheran community noted, saying that the Ponitff is aware that to approach unity, "concrete gestures" are needed to "grab the heart and shake consciences."
The Lutheran community also pointed out on its website that it is not the first time the Pope will visit the sanctuary. As a cardinal, the Holy Father went to the Lutheran Church of Rome in 1998 to debate on the theme "Personal perspectives: ecumenical experiences, positions and expectations" with the Lutheran Bishop of Berlin, Wolfgang Huber.
Pope John Paul II's visit in 1983 coincided with the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's birth and marked the first time since 1517 that a Pope preached in the Church.
For the evening service on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI will be joined by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and Cardinal Vicar of Rome Agostino Vallini. Leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church from Italy and other European countries will also be in attendance.
The Holy Father will preach on John 12:20-26 during the visit, while Pastor Kruse will speak on the first chapter of the Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. The service will be celebrated in German.