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ELCA bishop joins interfaith delegation to Vatican to receive blessing from pope

3/2/2016 2:40:00 PM

​            CHICAGO (ELCA) – The Rev. Wolfgang D. Herz-Lane, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) Delaware-Maryland Synod based in Baltimore, traveled with an interfaith delegation to the Vatican for a March 2 meeting with Pope Francis. The group met the pope following his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square and received a blessing for their ecumenical work in the aftermath of the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray.
            "The civil unrest in Baltimore in April 2015 brought out the best in the faith community. At one point, more than 100 pastors and Muslim imams walked arm in arm down the street in order to stop the rioting," said Herz-Lane in an interview prior to the trip. "Interfaith relationships are stronger now than they were before the unrest. We know the faith community has an important role to play in addressing some of the underlying problems that led to the riots  and that we can only do this together."
            Following Gray's death, Herz-Lane and other faith leaders in Baltimore expressed concern over Gray's death and appealed to residents to remain calm as riots and arson broke out across the city.
            "The witness for peace by religious leaders during the riots in Baltimore prevented further violence following Freddie Gray's death," said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop. "The continued witness of this inter-religious delegation as they work for peace in Baltimore and pray for peace with the pope in Rome is a sign of healing. I am proud of Bishop Herz-Lane's participation in this work. Jesus said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.' May these children of God be blessed."
            Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and a member of the delegation to the Vatican, served as co-chair of a Catholic-Lutheran task force that created "Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharist," an ecumenical document that marks greater unity between Catholics and Lutherans.
            "Lutherans and Roman Catholics are working harder than ever to achieve the unity for which Jesus prayed. This ecumenical journey to Rome is but one more step in our common pilgrimage," said Herz-Lane. "As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Lutherans and Catholics are closer theologically than at any point since 1517. Luther himself would be pleased."
            Herz-Lane presented the pope with a stained-glass Luther Rose made by Joe Burk, a member of Breath of God Lutheran Church in Baltimore.
            Other members of the interfaith delegation included Imam Earl El-Amin, from the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore; Rabbi Steven Fink, Temple Oheb Shalom; the Rev. Dr. Al Hathaway, Union Baptist Church in Baltimore; Archbishop William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore; William McCarthy, executive director of Catholic Charities in Baltimore; the Rev. Dr. Frank Reid, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore; and the Rev. Donald Sterling, New All Saints Catholic Church in Baltimore."
            During their visit, the group had conversations with Vatican officials and prayed together at St. Peter's Basilica and other spiritual sites.
            "This pope is bringing hope to a hurting world. I give thanks to God for his leadership and his openness to renewed ecumenical dialogue," said Herz-Lane.

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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.7 million members in more than 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.

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