Pope Francis has urged Christians to “move beyond” the controversies of the past.

At an ecumenical prayer service at the Lutheran cathedral in Lund in Monday, to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Pope said: “We Christians will be credible witnesses of mercy to the extent that forgiveness, renewal and reconciliation are daily experienced in our midst.”

With the prayer service, Pope Francis and leaders of the Lutheran World Federation launched a year of activities to mark the anniversary in 2017 of Martin Luther’s efforts to reform the Church.

Luther’s programme quickly developed into a schism. But the Pope said “our division distanced us from the primordial intuition of God’s people, who naturally yearn to be one, and that it was perpetuated historically by the powerful of this world rather than the faithful people.”

A joint statement signed in Lund by Pope Francis and Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, said, “Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table as the concrete expression of full unity.”

However, the Pope offered no new openings to the idea of sharing Communion before full unity is achieved.

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