Vatican, Lutheran federation announce study on church, Eucharist, ministry

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The official Catholic-Lutheran
dialogue will begin a deeper exploration of common beliefs and differences on
“church, Eucharist and ministry,” the Vatican and the Lutheran World
Federation announced.

When Pope Francis joined Bishop Munib A. Younan, then the president
of the Lutheran World Federation, for a prayer service in Sweden in 2016, the two
noted the pain many of their fellow Catholics and Lutherans — especially
Catholics and Lutherans married to each other — experience when they cannot
share the Eucharist at each other’s services.

“We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to
respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ,”
the two leaders said in 2016. “We long for this wound in the Body of
Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavors, which we
wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue.”

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the
Lutheran World Federation announced Oct. 31 that the next task of their formal
dialogue commission would be “to discern in a prayerful manner our
understanding on church, Eucharist and ministry, seeking a substantial
consensus so as to overcome remaining differences between us.”

The announcement was part of a statement marking the end of
a yearlong joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant

After 500 years of division and even violent opposition,
Catholics and Lutherans and many other Christian communities commemorated the
Reformation together, acknowledging their past sins and pledging to work for
full unity, said the statement published on Reformation Day, which recalls the
day in 1517 that Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation by publicly
posting his “95 Theses.”

Over the past year, the statement said, “We begged
forgiveness for our failures and for the ways in which Christians have wounded
the body of the Lord and offended each other during the five hundred years
since the beginning of the Reformation until today.”

But, “for the first time Lutherans and Catholics have
seen the Reformation from an ecumenical perspective,” it said. “This
has allowed new insight into the events of the 16th century, which led to our

The mistakes of the past cannot be changed, the statement
said, but “its influence upon us today can be transformed to become a
stimulus for growing communion, and a sign of hope for the world to overcome
division and fragmentation.”

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