“What Lutherans and Catholics are able to say together”

Source: FSSPX News

A delegation from the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD), which combines eight regional German Protestant denominations, was received in audience by Benedict XVI on January 24, 2011, on the eve of the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Besides Johannes Friedrich, Lutheran “bishop” of Bavaria and President of the VELKD, the 18-member delegation included Friedrich Weber, Lutheran “bishop” in charge of relations with the Catholic Church, and Günther Beckstein, former Minister-President of Bavaria and Vice-President of the Synod of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The pope recalled that the dialogue with the Lutherans goes back more than thirty years, as many as fifty years in the case of the “Jaeger-Stählin-Kreis”, an ecumenical working group of Protestant and Catholic theologians of which he himself was a member. Since then, “What has already been achieved reinforces our trust in continuing the dialogue, for only in this way can we stay together on that path which is ultimately Jesus Christ himself,” he explained. Then he reiterated that the commitment of the Catholic Church to ecumenism, as his “Venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul II said in his Encyclical Ut Unum Sint, is not a mere strategy of communication in a changing world, but a fundamental commitment of the Church, starting with her own mission.”

For some people today, “the common goal of full and visible unity of Christians today seems once again to be very distant. The conversation partners in the ecumenical dialogue express ideas on the unity of the Church that are entirely different,” Benedict XVI observed. “I share the concern of many Christians that the fruits of the ecumenical endeavour, above all in relation to the idea of Church and ministry, are still not sufficiently acknowledged by the ecumenical spokespeople. However, even if new difficulties always arise, let us look with hope to the future.”

“We must give an important place to common prayer and to interior prayer” to God “for the forgiveness of mutual wrongs and for culpability relative to the divisions,” the pope concluded. He expressed the desire to pray together constantly for “the help of God and the assistance of the Holy Spirit in order to take further steps towards the longed-for unity and not to be satisfied with the results we have achieved so far.”

At the conclusion of a private audience on January 26, Johannes Friedrich told the press that it was important for the Lutherans not to celebrate the Jubilee of the Reformation alone in 2017. The important point about the meeting with Benedict XVI was, for him, the pope’s statement that he “wanted to celebrate this event together”.

Admitting Protestant spouses in mixed marriages to the Eucharist is, for the President of the VELKD, the next step for the Catholic Church. That would not be “a form of general Eucharistic hospitality for everyone,” he explained. Referring to the canon law of the Catholic Church, he recalled that a spouse from another Church [sic] could receive the Eucharist, when that person is “in an emergency situation”. According to Canon 844, “If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop or of the Episcopal Conference, there is some other grave and pressing need,* Catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other Christians.” The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has already favored applying this provision throughout the ecclesiastical territory of Canada. The Protestant leader said that he had asked the pope and Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to encourage the German Bishops’ Conference to rule along these lines. Read in our Documents section the dossier “Twenty-five years against the spirit of Assisi, in the name of the continuity of the Magisterium up until Vatican II”. (Sources : apic/imedia/VIS/vatican.va – DICI no. 229 dated February 5, 2011)

*TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: The French text (and perhaps Pastor Friedrich’s German remark), omits the crucial second “if” and the underlined clause, implying that an exception may be made (1) in danger of death or (2) as permitted by the diocesan Bishop or Episcopal Conference. In reality, the Ordinary or the Conference has the limited authority to decide whether “there is some other grave and pressing need”.

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