New Quality in Lutheran-Roman Catholic Relationship

 — Nov. 1, 20091 nov. 2009

LWF General Secretary Noko: New Quality in Lutheran-Roman Catholic Relationship
Cardinal Kasper Says Ecumenism Need Not Be Reinvented

[AUGSBURG, Germany/GENEVA | LWI] When signing the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) ten years ago, “we committed ourselves to a joint ecumenical journey,” said Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). He was speaking at celebrations marking the tenth anniversary of the JDDJ signing in Augsburg, Germany, on Saturday 31 October in the Golden Hall of Augsburg’s town hall.

On 31 October 1999 “we did not doubt that we will walk together on new ways. We acted in full awareness of the remaining difficulties between us,” Noko recalled. “And yet,” he added, “we did not allow the remaining theological disagreements to keep us from taking this significant step.”

On Reformation Day 1999 the LWF and the Vatican agreed in a solemn act of worship that the centuries of repeated mutual condemnations on the decisive question of justification were no longer the subject of present-da y teaching in their churches. The member churches of the World Methodist Council affirmed the JDDJ at their 2006 assembly in Seoul, South Korea.

“The mutual condemnations from the past remain a part of our history; that history cannot be changed,” Noko stressed. “Ten years ago, in this city of Augsburg, we said that these memories of separation and hostility would not be the memories of our children,” he added.

“Even when we disagree with one another, even when our remaining difficulti es are irreconcilable, the very sharpness of our disappointment shows the new quality of our relationship,” Noko concluded.

For Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), a new beginning does not mean starting all over again. “We do not need to reinvent ecumenism,” he declared. “It has been successful as consensus ecumenism and it shall remain so. It builds on the consensus that remains between our churches, despite all painful divisions: the confessing of one Lord Jesus Christ as the one Savior and Mediator between God and us human beings, as testified to in Scripture and our common Apostolic Creed.”

“That is not the old hat nor is it a matter of splitting theological hairs,” Kasper went on to say. “That is the Christian response to the questions about the ultimate meaning, happiness, and where we come from and where we are going in life.”

“Quite a few people have expressed the criticism that the Joint Declaration has had no consequences for the teaching and practice of the church,” commented the PCPCU president. He cautioned, however, “It is simply not true that nothing has happened and that there have been no steps forward. The last joint Lutheran-Catholic document on the apostolicity of the Church, deliberately built on the Joint Declaration and made notable progress in so doing.” This document was adopted at the March 2007 LWF Council meeting in Lund, Sweden, after eight years of deliberations. “Admittedly, we have not experienced a great breakthrough to date,” Kasper conceded.

In Kasper’s view, “we should soberly add that much remains to be done. We will need patience but also impatience on the rest of the way. Both are part of God’s Kingdom. There are many people – not just in Germany – who are waiting with longing and impatience for the one Church at one Lord’s Table, who pray for it and work hard that all may be one.” (576 words)

Further information on the celebrations marking the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification may be found at:

Posted: Nov. 1, 2009 • Permanent link:
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