The sheet of ice and the penalty boxes were gone from Malmo Arena on 31st October as Catholics and Lutherans filled the stands and promised to work together for peace – particularly in Syria – and for justice – especially for refugees.
Pope Francis and leaders of the Lutheran World Federation continued their ecumenical commemoration of Reformation Day in an arena that usually hosts hockey games. But kicking off a year of events to culminate in the 2017 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the arena was transformed into a venue for song and witness.
Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, called on all Christians to join their voices in prayer and in pressuring their governments to stop the bloodshed and destruction in his homeland.
The bishop, who is president of Caritas Syria, announced that Christian humanitarian work in his country would follow the motto: “Become Christians Together,” focusing on how serving Christ must include serving others, especially the poorest and most needy.
A centrepiece of the Malmo event was the signing of a “declaration of intent” by the heads of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities, and the Lutheran World Federation’s World Service. The two organisations promised to “witness and act together,” supporting one another, including by serving the victims of war in Syria and Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.
Picture: Pope Francis talks with the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, during an ecumenical event at the Malmo Arena in Malmo, Sweden, on 31st October. Also pictured is Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, president of the Lutheran World Federation, left. The event opened a year marking the 2017 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).