Pope Francis receives Pastor Michael Jonas, president of the Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Rome © Vatican Media/Romano Siciliani (KNA)
Pope Francis received the pastor of the Protestant community in Rome, Michael Jonas, in private audience this Friday. In the process, the two exchanged views on the difficulties churches face in secularized Europe.
Jonas told the Catholic News Agency (KNA) following the conversation, which lasted just over half an hour. According to the pope, all churches must learn to "come back to the simple things," Jonas said.
It is important to clearly proclaim the essence of the Gospel and, above all, to live it convincingly. Young people in particular, who have a good sense of authenticity, pay close attention to how Christians live. Over the centuries, the churches in Europe have created too much of a moralizing superstructure that can hardly be communicated anymore, the Protestant theologian reported from the conversation.
Pope inquires about parish life
Furthermore, Francis had inquired in detail about parish life, Jonas reported. He also said he remembered his visit to Christ Church in 2015. The pope has not ruled out another visit, but there are no concrete plans, according to Jonas. All in all, he said, he experienced a "great basic trust" in Pope Francis toward the Lutherans, which he had already brought with him from Buenos Aires.
Michael Jonas, formerly city pastor in Schramberg/Black Forest, has been pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Rome since fall 2018. His predecessor, Jens-Martin Kruse, moved from the Tiber to the Elbe and is the main pastor at St. Peter's Church in Hamburg. The German- and Italian-speaking Lutheran congregation in Rome says it has about 500 members. Sunday service at the Christuskirche is mostly in German.
The ecumenical relations of his congregations with Catholic and Oriental parishes, colleges and other institutions in Rome, the Protestant pastor described as very good. With the neighboring parish of San Camillo de Lellis, for example, the Protestant community prays the Stations of the Cross every year during Lent. All in all, there are often more requests for exchange and meetings than he can fulfill, said Pastor Jonas.