Celebrating 50 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue

Some of the commission members during the meeting in Poland; far right Prof. Eva-Maria Faber (Catholic) and Prof. Theodor Dieter (Lutheran). Photo: LWF/K. Hintikka
Some of the commission members during the meeting in Poland; far right Prof. Eva-Maria Faber (Catholic) and Prof. Theodor Dieter (Lutheran). Photo: LWF/K. Hintikka

Commission on Unity to finalize draft report on Baptism and Growth in Communion

(LWI) Lutherans and Roman Catholics are gathering in Poland this week to complete discussions on what kind of unity might arise out of their shared understanding of the sacrament of Baptism, and celebrate 50 years of the international dialogue between the two Christian traditions.

Numerous important documents have been produced since the commission’s inception in 1967, most notably the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999, and the report From Conflict to Communion in 2013.

The annual meeting of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity, 18-25 July, in Kamień Śląski, near Opole, is expected to finalize the draft study report on “Baptism and Growth in Communion.”

The commission began discussing Baptism in 2009. However, this was interrupted to prepare the report From Conflict to Communion, presenting the story of the 16th century Reformation from the view point of both traditions, in time for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

This year’s meeting comes at a truly significant point of our common journey because of the five decades of continuous theological dialogue. During that time we have grown closer to one another also spiritually.
Rev. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka, LWF Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity established the commission and organize the yearly meetings. The current session is being hosted by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, in cooperation with the Centre of Culture and Science of the Theological Faculty of University of Opole in Kamień Śląskim and Institute of Ecumenism and Research on Integration of the Theological Faculty of University of Opole.

Celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the international dialogue will be held at an event on 22 July that will include the Common Prayer based on From Conflict to Communion. This will be followed by a festive dinner which will be attended by Archbishop Alfons Nossol, emeritus bishop of Opole and a former member of the commission, as well as Presiding Bishop Jerzy Samiec of the Polish Lutheran church, and other ecumenical guests.

Commission members will also take part in a local Catholic youth gathering and an ecumenical prayer service in the pilgrimage center of St Annaberg. They will join in Sunday worship at the Katowice Lutheran congregation, where the two co-chairs of the commission, Bishop emeritus Eero Huovinen of Helsinki, Finland, on the Lutheran side, and Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham, United Kingdom, on the Roman Catholic side, will each deliver short sermons.

With this meeting, the commission will be completing its fifth study process. The final document on “Baptism and Growth in Communion” is expected to be presented to the LWF Council in the second half of 2018.

‘A truly ecumenical momentum’

LWF Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations Rev. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka says “this year’s meeting comes at a truly significant point of our common journey because of the five decades of continuous theological dialogue. During that time we have grown closer to one another also spiritually. While we rejoice about the important fruits that this phase of the dialogue has produced, we are grateful for those who have committed to the quest of the visible unity of the Church, and particularly to this bilateral dialogue before us.”

She referred to the October 2016 Catholic-Lutheran Ecumenical Commemoration of the Reformation in Lund and Malmö, Sweden, and the World Communion of Reformed Churches’ recent association to the JDDJ as important milestones. “It is wonderful to see how the Reformation anniversary has developed a truly ecumenical momentum when so many important steps are taken in the way of unity,” Hintikka added.