Catholic and Lutheran bishops discuss pope’s document



Bishop Marcus Miller and Bishop George V. Murry shared their perspectives on Pope Francis’ document, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) during a gathering Friday night at the Ursuline Motherhouse auditorium, 4250 Shields Road.

Bishop Miller, interim bishop of the Northeast Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, recently spoke at the National Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on the document. Bishop Murry heads the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.

About 60 people attended the event sponsored by Catholic-Lutheran Covenant Commission of the Youngstown Diocese and Northeast Ohio Synod, Mahoning Valley Association of Churches and ACTION (Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods). A discussion followed. The Rev. Bob Bonnot, a member of the Catholic-Lutheran Covenant Commission and MVAC officer, introduced the bishops, and Sister Isabel Rudge, MVAC board member, welcomed the group.

The pope’s document calls on the Catholic church and the world at-large to start anew with evangelization.

“This has profound ecumenical implications,” said Bishop Miller.

He said what the pope writes should be “great joy to Lutheran ears” because he writes as the pastor of the Catholic church. “The approach he takes is about finding common ground,” Bishop Miller said.

Bishop Miller said the pope has a focus on evangelization, an activity that engages Lutherans and Catholics. There is internal evangelization, another effort with those who have drifted away, and then to those who don’t know Christ.

“It’s up to us to attend to family and neighbors who don’t know the joy of Christ,” he said.

“The church must be an advocate for the poor,” Bishop Miller said of a primary teaching. Helping the poor, he said, is a way to bring the denominations together.

Bishop Miller said the pope’s document also encourages the “people of God to preach the Gospel” and “be attentive to the audience.”

Bishop Miller underscored that the pope’s words mesh with his actions. “He’s straightforward and accessible,” he said. “He has a way of talking to each person.”

Bishop Miller said, “We’re not walking alone in evangelization but relying on one another to present Christ to the community.” Doing that, he said, will help people “recapture for ourselves the joy of the Gospel.”

Bishop Murry said he saw the pope’s document on a broader scale. “The heart of the Gospel is that Jesus loves us,” he said, adding that’s what is important to share. “But we will fail at that if we are talking about it and not living it.”

A key concept, the bishop said, is that “God gave us His love, and we can go forth and share that love with others.”

The bishop said he believes people “hesitate to show their faith” because they think it might be disrespectful to another’s faith. He said that’s not so, as “we must faithfully show the truth.”

Bishop Murry said evangelization hinges on “building relationships with people” and sharing “what Jesus has done for us and wanting to do the same for them.”

“The document calls on us to live our faith and show our faith to the world. There’s no better way to share the joy of Jesus,” Bishop Murry said.

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