ELCA Delegation Visits Cardinal Kasper, Ecumenical Leadership

 — Mar. 28, 200628 mars 2006

VATICAN CITY (ELCA) — Focusing on “spiritual ecumenism,” Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, the Vatican, said the Roman Catholic Church is preparing a booklet on ecumenism with suggestions for how Catholic parishes can express commitment to ecumenism in their local settings. Kasper made the comment in an hour-long meeting March 21 with an 18-member delegation from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The delegation visited here as part of an extended ecumenical journey, organized every three years by the ELCA churchwide organization. The Lutherans met earlier with world church leaders in Geneva and Istanbul, and traveled to London March 25 for the final part of their trip. Most the delegation’s meetings here were with officials of the Vatican.

Leading the delegation were the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary, Chicago, and the Rev. E. Roy Riley, bishop of the ELCA New Jersey Synod, Hamilton Square, and chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops.

Kasper has spoken before of spiritual ecumenism, a term he uses to suggest that Lutherans and Roman Catholics can make a spiritual connection with one another by putting their faith into practice together through local initiatives and ministries.

“The spiritual dimension of ecumenism is very important to us,” Kasper said. Documents and events are important “but the very heart of ecumenism is spiritual ecumenism,” he said.

Kasper emphasized that ecumenical work for Roman Catholics “is changing a lot at this moment.”

“We’re no longer where we were 40 years ago,” he said. “The new pope (Pope Benedict XVI) has decided that ecumenism and the unity of the church for him is a priority.”

A key ecumenical moment for Lutherans and Roman Catholics occurred in 1999 when leaders of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a global communion of Lutheran churches including the ELCA, and the Vatican signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) in Augsburg, Germany. Through the JDDJ the LWF and the Vatican agreed to a basic understanding of the doctrine of justification and declared that certain 16th century condemnations of each other no longer apply.

This summer a world assembly of Methodists will take place in Seoul, South Korea, at which the Methodists will consider affirming the JDDJ, Kasper said. The cardinal characterized that as an “important step” for Roman Catholics.

Among the ecumenical challenges ahead for the Vatican are its relationships with Pentecostals and so-called “evangelicals,” Kasper said. These movements are growing in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly Latin America, Africa, Asia and now Europe, he said. Dialogue is difficult, because there is no central church structure, he said.

Kasper noted that, in November, Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the world Orthodox leadership in Istanbul, Turkey, which the ELCA delegation visited earlier during the ecumenical journey.

The cardinal added that for the Vatican, the decision to engage in ecumenical work was “an irreversible decision.” Churches have a common task to stand for fundamental values such as human dignity, peace and justice, he added.

Speaking for the ELCA delegation, Almen, who is Lutheran co-chair of the current round of Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the United States, thanked Kasper for the “gracious hospitality” the Vatican had extended to the Lutherans.

“From the very beginning, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s commitment to ecumenical endeavor has been forthright and unambiguous,” Almen said. The ELCA declared its commitment in an official statement adopted by its 1991 Churchwide Assembly, “Ecumenism: The Vision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” he said.

The ELCA hosted visits to the United States by Kasper’s predecessor, Cardinal Edward Cassidy, and by Kasper in 2002 and 2004. The 2004 event was a celebration of the 5th anniversary of the JDDJ, and included a formal presentation by Kasper to the ELCA Conference of Bishops in Chicago.

ELCA delegations visit the Vatican regularly.

“As we reflect on all of those visits, they have been significant for the individual participants in gaining a first-hand understanding (of) the historic significance of this place, as well as the magnificent opportunity to visit St. Peter’s,” Almen said. “But they have served at the same time as a reminder to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that the ELCA really belongs (to) and has it roots within the Western Rite of the church. The visits … served as a healthy antidote to some of those forces of Protestant sectarianism that also threaten the (lives) of some of our parishes.”

“We are here to affirm our God-given unity, and at the same time we, with you, grieve that we have not found more fully ways to express that unity,” Almen said to Kasper.

Almen said he was grateful for the “clarity” in which Kasper addressed issues of ecumenical concern for the whole world, adding that the ELCA affirms its gratitude for Kasper’s ecumenical leadership.

While visiting the Vatican, the ELCA delegation met with leaders of several other groups with specific leadership responsibilities. They were the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Pontifical Council of San Tommaso d’Aquino.

Posted: Mar. 28, 2006 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4855
Categories: ELCA NewsIn this article: Walter Kasper
Transmis : 28 mars 2006 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4855
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