Encouraging Unity

Lutheran-Catholic commission members worshipped at St Agnes Episcopal Cathedral in Kyoto. Photo: LWF
Lutheran-Catholic commission members worshipped at St Agnes Episcopal Cathedral in Kyoto. Photo: LWF

Focus on Baptism in New Phase of Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue

KYOTO, Japan/GENEVA, 4 September 2013 (LWI) - Lutherans and Roman Catholics have entered a new phase of dialogue that focuses on discovering what kind of unity might arise from their understanding of baptism.

The Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity, which leads the bilateral dialogue between the two Christian traditions globally since 1967, met 13-20 August in Kyoto, Japan, in its fifth study process on the theme, “Baptism and Growing Communion.”

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) organize the commission’s meetings, which this year was hosted by the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC) on behalf of the LWF.

“It was very encouraging to see how the commission was able to enter a new study process on baptism so soon after finalizing the previous study document, ‘From Conflict to Communion’,” said Rev. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka, LWF assistant general secretary for ecumenical relations and director of the Department for Theology and Public Witness.

Hintikka noted that while the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue approaches the theme of baptism from the perspective of how it creates communion between the two Christian traditions, it is also linked to the parallel trilateral dialogue that includes Mennonites.

The work of the commission is based on thematic papers prepared by its members from earlier meetings.

The current phase of study began in 2009 but was interrupted by the preparatory process of “From Conflict to Communion,” which tells the history of the Reformation from the point of view of both Lutherans and Roman Catholics.

The co-chairpersons of the commission are Lutheran Bishop emeritus Dr Eero Huovinen of Helsinki, Finland, and Roman Catholic Bishop William Kenney from Birmingham, United Kingdom. Commission member Prof. Augustine Suzuki comes from JELC, which was scheduled to host the 2011 meeting, but it was moved to a different venue because of the earthquake in Japan that year.

The commission members also visited the Kansai Seminar House, where they met with JELC president, Rev. Tadahiro Tateyama, and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in Japan.

They participated in a Sunday service at JELC’s Kyoto Church, enjoyed ecumenical hospitality at the Episcopal Church in Japan which offered the St. Agnes Cathedral for the daily prayers of the commission, and visited Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples in the region.

The PCPCU will host the next meeting of the commission, 20 - 28 July 2014.

Read the Communiqué from the Kyoto meeting.