Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Catholics, Lutherans Reconcile Service of Song, Prayer Attempts to Close a 500-Year Gap

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Catholics, Lutherans Reconcile Service of Song, Prayer Attempts to Close a 500-Year Gap

Article excerpt

The domed, incense-filled sanctuary reverberated with prayers intoned in centuries-old Byzantine chant and, less typically, with an a cappella rendering of the Lutheran anthem "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

Hundreds of Catholics and Lutherans gathered Tuesday night at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Munhall for the first in a series of services marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. That Reformation is commonly dated to the Oct. 31, 1517, posting by a German priest, Martin Luther, of a document protesting Catholic teachings and practices. It set in motion a massive schism between Catholic and newly formed Protestant churches, often with deadly results in Europe's religious wars.

Tuesday night's service, however, saw members of the two traditions singing and praying together, a sign of the dramatic improvement in relations over the past 50 years. Catholics and Lutherans have signed on to numerous official documents seeking to narrow the gap between them. A 1999 document issued by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation -which represents many but not all Lutheran communions -found that although they don't don't entirely agree on "justification," or how God saves people from their sins, their differences are no longer considered occasions for mutual condemnation. Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone was a flashpoint of the Reformation.

The service was a "moleben," a type of prayer service in the eastern Byzantine tradition. It was jointly organized by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the three Catholic jurisdictions that overlap in the region -the Roman Catholic dioceses of Pittsburgh and Greensburg and the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. They were represented by their bishops, including Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, Greensburg Bishop Edward Malesic and Byzantine Archbishop William Skurla.

The archeparchy, whose icon-filled cathedral hosted the service, follows the same liturgical traditions as Orthodox churches, but it is loyal to the pope.

The service had many of the hallmarks of Byzantine liturgy, including a form of plainchant rooted in the Carpatho-Rusyn tradition. …

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