Your Holiness, Your Eminences, and Your Excellencies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is my great joy to greet you, Your Holiness, on behalf of the Finnish Lutheran Church, as well as on behalf of our ecumenical delegation. We, three Bishops from the Helsinki metropolitan area, carry with us the symbol of ecumenical cooperation, to which we are all committed and which will certainly be made even stronger by this unforgettable visit to Rome and the Vatican.
You, Your Holiness, have a special place in the hearts of many Finnish citizens. I have myself been touched and inspired both by your words and by your many significant symbolic actions, such as washing the feet of prisoners and your promotion of a simpler lifestyle. These have received wide attention in our predominantly Lutheran country.
Allow me, Your Holiness, to express my appreciation for the ways in which you have empowered many people from different Church traditions. Your example calls all Christians, as well as people of other faiths, to struggle together from darkness towards light, from hostility to hospitality, and from prejudice to spiritual freedom.
My hope and prayer is that our ecumenical discussions and encounters in Rome and the Vatican will empower us to find ways to speak more confidently and to learn more of the vocabulary of mutual respect and shared joy. This turbulent age is too full of messages of hatred and fear. We Christians need to send a different signal. The spirit of the Gospel is not to be found in isolation or in the erection of barriers.
Doctrinal negotiations are an essential part of the ecumenical agenda. However, the ecumenical movement cannot live without the realities of different contexts and without the life experiences of ordinary men and women. Our different contexts and life stories affect how we react, and whether we keep silent or speak out. The ecumenical movement is a movement of welcoming inclusiveness and the home of a cordial curiosity about each other’s wounds and dreams.
Your Holiness, as a sign of our respect for your concern for ecology and sustainable development, we wish to inform you that there is not only a place for you in the hearts of the Finnish people – but also that there is now a concrete place as well.
May I offer you, Your Holiness, this certificate, which confirms that you have a 1000 square metre forest in Finland, as part of a major environmental programme to safeguard nature.