Pope Francis has told Lutheran pilgrims from Finland that Martin Luther’s intention 500 years ago “was to renew the Church, not divide her”.

The Pope was speaking to an Evangelical Lutheran delegation led by Archbishop Kari Mäkinen of Turku, which visits Rome each year during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

He said: “True ecumenism is based on a shared conversion to Jesus Christ as our Lord and redeemer. If we draw close to him, we draw close also to one another.” He added that “a communion of harmony” would help Catholics and Lutherans “find further convergence on points of doctrine and the moral teaching of the Church”.

The Pope recalled his trip to Sweden last October to mark the start of the Reformation, saying that it was a “significant step” that “gave us courage” for the ecumenical journey ahead.

“After 50 years of official ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans,” he said, “we have succeeded in clearly articulating points of view which today we agree on. For this we are grateful.

“At the same time we keep alive in our hearts sincere contrition for our faults,” the Pope said. “In this spirit, we recalled in Lund that the intention of Martin Luther 500 years ago was to renew the Church, not divide Her. The gathering there gave us the courage and strength, in our Lord Jesus Christ, to look ahead to the ecumenical journey that we are called to walk together.”

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