Lutherans Respond to Vatican Document and Letter

 — Sept. 8, 20008 sept. 2000

CHICAGO (ELCA) — The general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) said Sept. 8 that he is “disappointed” that 35 years of ecumenical dialogue between Lutherans and Roman Catholics apparently were not considered when the Vatican issued a document earlier this week and sent a letter in June to presidents of Roman Catholic Bishops’ conferences around the world.

The Sept. 5 document, “Dominus Iesus“– On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, states that “ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not churches in the proper sense.”

In a letter issued June 30, the Vatican said, in effect, Roman Catholics should not use the term “sister church” referring to Protestants. Instead, they should be called “ecclesial communities,” the letter said.

“Dominus Iesus,” was published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Catholic Church, and ratified by Pope John Paul II. The letter to the presidents of the bishops’ conferences was also issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“Lutheran churches, together with other churches of the Reformation, are not ready to accept the categories now emphasized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith nor the definitions and criteria underlying them,” said the Rev. Ishmael Noko, LWF general secretary. “The impact of these statements is more painful because they reflect a different spirit than that which we encounter in many other Lutheran-Roman Catholic relationships.”

“The LWF remains committed to ecumenical dialogue,” Noko’s statement continued. “We believe that ecumenism is not optional but essential to the Church. Temporary setbacks should neither be allowed to cloud nor to darken our vision for Christian unity as willed and prayed for by Christ himself.”

The LWF is a global communion of 131 member churches in 72 countries representing 59.5 million of the world’s 63 million Lutherans. The LWF is based in Geneva, Switzerland. The ELCA is a member of the LWF.

The ELCA affirmed the LWF statement, said the Rev. Daniel F. Martensen, director, ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs. In a brief statement Sept. 7, the ELCA Office of the Bishop and the department pointed to sections of the Augsburg Confession, a foundational document of the Lutheran church, and the ELCA Constitution, which offer the ELCA’s definition of “church.”

“We recognize no deficiency in our self-understanding as ‘church,'” the ELCA statement said. “Issues raised by Dominus Iesus will be discussed in our ongoing Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue.”

On October 31, 1999, the LWF and the Catholic Church signed the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” in Augsburg, Germany. Noko said the signing of the document nullified centuries of conflict between Lutherans and Catholics, and was an important milestone in the history of Christian unity.

“In the Joint Declaration, a clarifying note states that the word ‘church’ is used in the declaration ‘to reflect the self- understanding of the particular churches, without intending to resolve all the ecclesiological issues related to them,'” Noko said. “This approach is also helpful in the wider ecumenical relationship between churches.”

The LWF plans to study “Dominus Iesus” carefully and will discuss it with Roman Catholic representatives, Noko added.

Posted: Sept. 8, 2000 • Permanent link:
Categories: ELCA NewsIn this article: Dominus Iesus, ecumenism, interfaith, salvation
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Catégorie : ELCA NewsDans cet article : Dominus Iesus, ecumenism, interfaith, salvation

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