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Catholics, Lutherans to mark 500th anniversary of Reformation

Repentance, thanksgiving and hope.

Those three emotions will run through prayer services bringing Catholics and Lutherans together in Omaha next month and in September to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Prominent leaders of Catholics and Lutherans in Nebraska will take turns presiding at the 7 p.m. prayer services and receptions – Archbishop George J. Lucas at the May 1 service at St. Cecilia Cathedral, and Lutheran Bishop Brian Maas of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America at the Sept. 11 service at Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church.

The prayer services also mark 50 years of dialogue committed to communion between Catholic leaders and Evangelical Lutheran leaders.

"I look forward to this time of prayer at St. Cecilia Cathedral with our Lutheran brothers and sisters," Archbishop Lucas said. "We all draw our life from the risen Christ. We look forward to the day when we will experience a more complete unity in him."

Lutheran Bishop Maas said the services will recognize the fruit of half a century of earnest dialogue – a milestone, but not a destination.

"The opportunity to worship together in these prayer services is simultaneously an act of devotion and of witness," Lutheran Bishop Maas said. "It draws us together in praise and thanksgiving before God and with one another, while witnessing to the world the hope of reconciliation in a time of deepening divisions. We gather in mutual respect for one another, mutual confession of the differences that divide us, and mutual commitment to the ongoing journey of reconciliation …

"I give thanks for the faithful work that has brought us to this point, and I rejoice in the promise of continued progress in the hard and blessed work of reconciliation."

Pope Francis has encouraged similar gatherings around the world, and with Bishop Munic Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, presided over a prayer service in Sweden last October.

Brother William Woeger, director of the Omaha archdiocese’s Office of Divine Worship, said it is important for Catholics and Lutherans to recognize the fruits and the pain of the Reformation.

And it led to important developments in the Catholic Church, including the Council of Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II, Brother Woeger said.

"All of these things are connected," he said.