Curitiba, capital of the state of Paraná (Southern Brazil), is a city that holds many records: it has the highest educational index rates of the country, the lowest illiteracy rates and a high quality of education (The Federal University is the first in Brazil). It is considered the most eco-sustainable Brazilian city, thanks to innovative plans that have reconciled urban growth with care for the environment.
In this “primacy city”, an important step was taken in the long and fruitful ecumenical journey between Catholics and Lutherans. The Commission for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) and the Commission for bilateral Catholic-Lutheran dialogue, in collaboration with Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), chose the “green city” as the venue of the Ecumenical Marian Symposium, from 1 to 3 September.
The occasion arose from two important anniversaries. The first was the third centenary of the salvaging of the statue of Our Lady of Aparecida from the waters of the Paraiba do Sul river. The Brazilian people are very familiar with the story of the group of poor fishermen who in 1717, in view of the banquet organized for the imminent visit of the governor of the São Paolo Province, after an unsuccessful day of fishing, again launched their nets into the river. To their surprise, they found a small muddy statue of “Our Lady,” first the body and then the head, entangled in their nets. Upon throwing their nets once again, these were unexpectedly filled with a great amount of fish. It was the first of a long series of miracles obtained from the “Black Virgin,” who subsequently became the patron of the Brazilian people.
The second anniversary was the 5th centennial of the Protestant Reformation. The celebrations were jointly carried out with the historical event of Lund in October 2016, by the Catholic and Lutheran churches, in a spirit of communion, dialogue and thanksgiving. The Curitiba Symposium is thus part of an important ecumenical path.
There was a huge crowd of participants: among others were four Catholic Bishops, five Lutheran Synod Pastors, experts for the ecumenism of the National Conference of the Bishops of Brazil, heads of ecumenism in the Episcopalian regions and many theologians, religious, priests and laity, including some members of the Focolare Movement. Among the speakers, invited by Bishop Dom Biasin, President of the Ecumenical Commission, was also the focolarino theologian, Fr Hubertus Blaumeiser, former professor of the Gregorian University in Rome, specializing in the theology of Luther. “The central theme of the Symposium was the famous comment of Luther on the Magnificat, published recently also in a Lutheran-Catholic co-edition. My task – Blaumeiser wrote- was to hold two introductory conferences on Luther, perceived by all as an invitation to review his personality: a stimulus to get to know him and study him in a deeper way. It all came about in an atmosphere of great fraternity. The speeches of the Symposium will be published by the Catholic Review for Dialogue (the only one of its kind in Latin America). We hope that what emerged may also be expressed in a joint declaration of the two churches, set for the end of the centennial celebrations.”
Blaumeiser was later a guest of the soiree organised in the Focolare’s citadel, “ Ginetta Mariapolis,” aired in streaming and watched in 650 listening points. Among those who attended on-site, were the Methodist Bishops, Nelson Leite and and Adriel De Souza, the Mayor of Vargem Grande do Sul, and members of various churches. The transmission was highly appreciated also by the youth who were fascinated by this vision of ecumenism as an opportunity to discover the treasures of the various Christian traditions – a gift for all.