Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue continues ‘Hope of Eternal Life’ theme

 — Nov. 17, 200817 nov. 2008

[ELCA] The U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue added to its current round of meetings on the topic of “Hope of Eternal Life” a new study on the sacrament of the Eucharist. The Oct. 10-14 session at St. Paul’s College, Washington, D.C., was the sixth of Round XI in the historic relationship between Lutherans and Catholics that began 43 years ago at the end of the Second Vatican Council.

Dialogue participants have explored beliefs and practices related to eternal life in Christ since the round began in 2005. At the October session a special task force from the Dialogue membership welcomed Msgr. John Radano, former undersecretary, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, The Vatican, as part of a new discussion on areas of consensus and disagreement between Catholics and Lutherans on eucharistic doctrine. The new initiative is the result of conversations between members of the Pontifical Council and the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

In response to a written message from Hanson to Pope Benedict XVI in September 2007, the Pontifical Council suggested that the ELCA and the U.S. Roman Catholic Church seek to formulate a joint teaching statement, said the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, Lutheran co-chair of the U.S. dialogue and former ELCA secretary. The statement would acknowledge the mutual confession of the churches of the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, he said.

“The Eucharist is the place of encounter with Christ who is eternal life,” said the Rev. James Massa, executive director, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligous Affairs, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, and also one of the two staff coordinators of the dialogue. “I see it as particularly appropriate that we take up Bishop Hanson’s proposal precisely at a time when the dialogue team is talking about prayers for the deceased as part of its overall treatment of eternal life. For many Christian believers the Eucharist is the preeminent prayer of thanksgiving for Christ’s life-giving sacrifice, to which he joins all of the faithful, living and dead.”

The dialogue adopted a time line for conclusion of the current round, which includes a review process for a Common Agreement on Eternal Life. Drafters have presented portions of a draft text that treat the topic from a biblical-historical, systematic and pastoral standpoint. “The report, when completed, will be helpful to both pastors and members of parishes,” Almen said. “It will serve as a resource for teaching and discussion as members of congregations ponder questions about death and dying as well as the promise of eternal life in Christ.”

Almen added, “The report also will highlight the broad reality of the Church throughout time and eternity. After all, as we gather at the table of our Lord, we are surrounded by all the faithful who have gone before us, the great cloud of witnesses, as we anticipate the eternal banquet of our Lord.”

The next session of the dialogue is March 12-15, 2009, in Washington. Participants will examine a complete draft of the common statement and also consider the contents and format of a possible publication that would include the statement along with a series of essays based on papers that have been presented over the course of the round.

Participants in the October 2008 meeting mourned the loss of one of the longest serving members of the U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue, the Rev. John Reumann, professor emeritus of New Testament and Greek, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. Reumann, who died June 6, 2008, was remembered by dialogue participants in a memorial service at the end of the meeting.

Last year the dialogue held a memorial mass for the passing of another long-serving member, the Rev. George Tavard A.A., an Augustinian of the Assumption priest and prolific author, who died in 2007.

• Information for this release was provided by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
• Information regarding the U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue is on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog

Posted: Nov. 17, 2008 • Permanent link:
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