Pope Francis and Methodists in Dialogue
The issue of Liturgy dealing with “Pastoral Liturgy and Pope Francis,” guest-edited by Katharine Harmon, looks at many aspects of Pope Francis’ ministry. Karen Westerfield Tucker, renown professor of liturgy at Boston University and long-time member of ecumenical dialogues, examines Pope Francis’ work in building ecumenical understanding. What follows is an excerpt from her essay. –– Melinda Quivik
In April 2016, a delegation of leaders from the World Methodist Council met in an audience with Pope Francis when a Methodist Ecumenical Office was opened in Rome. In his comments to the delegation, Pope Francis highlighted subjects familiar from earlier ecumenical engagements, and alluded to both the previous and current work of the Joint International Commission while speaking of his desire for ongoing fraternal relationships with the World Methodist community:
. . . I was pleased to learn of the opening of the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome. It is a sign of our growing closeness, and particularly of our shared desire to overcome all that stands in the way of our full communion. May the Lord bless the work of the office and make it a place where Catholics and Methodists can encounter one another and grow in appreciation of one another’s faith, whether they be groups of pilgrims, those training for ministry, or those who guide their communities. . .
Catholics and Methodists have much to learn from one another in how we understand holiness and how it can be lived out. We both must do what we can to ensure that members of our respective congregations meet regularly, come to know one another, and encourage one another to seek the Lord and his grace. When we read the Scriptures, either alone or in a group, but always in an atmosphere of prayer, we open ourselves to the Father’s love, given in his Son and in the Holy Spirit. Even where differences remain between our communities, these can and must become the impetus for reflection and dialogue.
John Wesley, in his Letter to a Roman Catholic, wrote that Catholics and Methodists are called to “help each other on in whatever … leads to the Kingdom.” May the new common statement encourage Methodists and Catholics to help one another in our lives of prayer and devotion. In the same letter, Wesley also wrote, “if we cannot as yet think alike in all things, at least we may love alike.” It is true that we do not as yet think alike in all things, and that on issues regarding ordained ministries and ethics, much work remains to be done. However, none of these differences constitute such an obstacle as to prevent us from loving in the same way and offering a common witness to the world. Our lives of holiness must always include a loving service to the world; Catholics and Methodists together are bound to work in different ways in order to give concrete witness to the love of Christ. When we serve those in need, our communion grows.
In today’s world, afflicted by so much evil, it is more than ever vital that as Christians we offer a joint witness inspired by the light of Easter, becoming a sign of the love of God, which in the resurrection of Jesus is victorious.
Dr. Westerfield Tucker’s full essay is available in Liturgy 33, no. 2 available by personal subscription and through many libraries.
Karen B. Westerfield Tucker is professor of worship at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts. A past president of Societas Liturgica and past editor of Studia Liturgica, she is currently engaged in ecumenical dialogues at both international and national levels.
Karen B. Westerfield Tucker, “Journeying Together: Pope Francis and the International Roman Catholic and World Methodist Bilateral,” Liturgy 33, no. 2 (2018): 46-53.