From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Relations between the LWF and the Vatican not affected

Date 22 Oct 1998 06:53:04

 by controversy surrounding Swedish archbishop's audience with the Pope
Ishmael Noko speaks to Swedish church paper

GENEVA, 19 October 1998 (lwi) - In view of the controversy over the visit
of the Swedish Archbishop, K. G. Hammar, to the Pope, the general secretary
of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Ishmael Noko, has affirmed that he
believes "firmly that the ecumenical commitment of both the Roman Catholic
Church and the Church of Sweden will overcome the present difficulties".
Elsewhere, and in Sweden especially, the Vatican's decision to postpone
Hammar's audience with the Pope, scheduled for mid-October, has led to
heated discussions.

In a press release from the Vatican dated October 6, the postponement of
the trip was explained by Hammar's having recently spoken in favor of
blessing homosexual unions. The Vatican statement also referred to a photo
exhibit entitled "Ecce Homo", which deals with homosexuality. The exhibit,
held in Uppsala's Lutheran cathedral, included works which, the Vatican
claimed, offended Catholics and others.

In remarks made to the Swedish church paper "Kyrkans Tidning", the LWF
general secretary emphasized that the "postponement of Archbishop Hammar's
audience with the Pope, and consequently of his whole visit to Rome, is
primarily a matter between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of
Sweden. Hammar planned his visit in his own capacity."

Noko continued, "I do not connect either the planned visit or its
postponement to his function as chair of the Standing Committee on
Ecumenical Affairs, which is a committee of the Council of the Lutheran
World Federation." The relationship and communication between the LWF and
the Roman Catholic Church would continue as before.

Noko: "The issue of human sexuality is a debated theme in all major
churches and also in parts of the ecumenical movement. I recognize that
there are various positions on this issue also within LWF member churches
and among Lutheran church leaders."

Alluding to the 1995 encyclical "Ut unum sint", the General Secretary
recalled that Pope John Paul II had invited church leaders and theologians
to engage with him in fraternal dialogue. "When the Pope invites church
leaders to dialogue with him in the spirit of this encyclical, they will of
course also bring their own concerns to be shared with him," Noko

Noko hoped that "the postponement of the trip is not meant as a breach of
engagement in the longer term".

Church of Sweden stops trip to Rome

Talking to journalists, Hammar deplored the "Vatican's position": "I cannot
see any personal failure in the fact that the audience with the Pope will
not take place; rather it is strange that the whole Church of Sweden is to
be humiliated in this way." As a result of the Vatican decisions, the whole
trip to Rome will be canceled, the Swedish Archbishop said.

According to "Kyrkans Tidning", the postponement of the audience with the
Pope was also a "total surprise" for Sweden's Catholics. The paper quoted
Henrik Roelvink, the chair of the Catholic ecumenical committee, as saying
that "ecumenical relations in Sweden will not be jeopardized. ... Of course
we do not agree with the Archbishop's position with regard to the issue of
homosexuality. ... In that sense, unity is farther removed that ever."

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Lutheran World Information
Editorial Assistant: Janet Bond-Nash

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