Catholic-Lutheran dialogue phase concluded

Commission members in front of Strasbourg Cathedral. Photo: LWF
Commission members in front of Strasbourg Cathedral. Photo: LWF

Nine year process to result in study report

(LWI) The meeting of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Study Commission on Unity from July 18 to 24, in Klingenthal, France, has drawn a phase of an important ecumenical dialogue to a close.

The meeting was conducted under the auspices of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). It rounded off the commission’s fifth phase, which started in 2009.

Focus on baptism, eucharist and ministry

The meeting focused on baptism and growth in communion. The commission built on earlier ecumenical dialogues on baptism, justification, Eucharist, ministry and apostolicity of the church. In doing so, it focused on the question of what kind of ecclesial communion arises from shared understanding of Catholics and Lutherans on baptism.

Speaking after the meeting, Rev. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka, of the LWF, said finding an answer to this question was important in view of the commitments Lutherans and Catholics had expressed together, such as in the Joint Statement signed by Pope Francis and LWF President Munib Younan during the Joint Ecumenical Commemoration in Lund on 31 October 2016. One of these was to be more tentative to the pain felt in ecumenical communities and families that otherwise share their lives but cannot gather around same Eucharistic table.

Commission members concluded their work on the study report, which will be finalized and published early next year. It will be presented to the LWF council at its next meeting.

The meeting was hosted by the PCPCU, at the invitation of the Johann-Wolfgang-von Goethe Foundation, in collaboration with the Institute for Ecumenical Research. During the meeting, commission members met representatives of the Archdiocese of Strasbourg and the Conseil des Églises Chrétiennes de l'Eurométropole de Strasbourg. When participating in High Mass at the Cathedral, they were addressed by Mons. Joseph Musser, General Vicar of the Archdiocese of Strasbourg. During the days of work, the commission visited St. Odilienberg, a place of pilgrimage in the Alsace region of France.

Decades of joint work

The first phase of the commission began in 1967. In 1999, it published the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification which was passed in 1997 and solemnly signed by the representatives of LWF and PCPCU in 1999. Since then three more world communions have joined the JDDJ (WMC-World Methodist Council, WCRC-World Communion of reformed Churches and Anglican Communion).

In 2013, it published From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation.

Current co-chairs are, on the Lutheran side, Bishop emeritus Eero Huovinen (Finland), and, on the Catholic side, Bishop William Kenney CP (United Kingdom).

Lutheran participants at this meeting were Rev. Prof. Dr Dirk G. Lange (United States), Rev. Prof. Dr Friederike Nüssel (Germany), Rev. Prof. Dr Theodor Dieter (France) as consultant, and Rev. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka (Switzerland) as co-secretary. Apologies were received from Rev. Prof. Dr Hiroshi Augustine Suzuki (Japan), Rev. Prof. Wanda Deifelt (Brazil/United States), and Rev. Dr Sandra Gintere (Latvia/Germany).

Catholic participants were Rev. Prof. Dr Michel Fédou SJ (France), Rev. Prof. Dr Josef Freitag (Germany), Rev. Prof. Dr Angelo Maffeis (Italy), Prof. Dr Thomas Söding (Germany), Dr Christian D. Washburn (United States), Prof. Dr Susan K. Wood, SCL (United States), as consultant, Prof. Dr Wolfgang Thönissen (Germany), and Msgr. Dr Matthias Türk (Vatican) as co-secretary. Apologies were received from. Prof. Dr Eva-Maria Faber (Switzerland).