Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Takes Another Step Forward

May 11, 2000 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (May 11, 2000) -- At a four-day meeting here, Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue in the United States took another step towards reconciling differences over bishops, primacy, and decision-making bodies within the two churches.

The third meeting of the tenth round of the US Lutheran Roman Catholic dialogue took place at St. Paul's College, May 4-7. The theme of this round of dialogues is "The Church as Koinonia of Salvation: Its Structures and Ministries."

The meeting featured a discussion of papers on several issues relating to the Church, its understanding of ordained ministry and its authority structures. This meeting moved beyond the review of history, theology, biblical studies and previous agreements to outlining the themes to be treated in the statement which the members of the dialogue will draft for presentation to the churches. It is hoped that this dialogue will contribute to healing Lutheran and Catholic differences over bishops, decision making bodies - like synods and councils, and primacy.

The papers discussed were: Michael Slusser, Two Sacred Orders: Diaconate and Presbyterate; George Tavard, The Tridentine Anathemas concerning Ministry and Ordination; Susan Wood, The Teaching of Vatican II on Bishops and Priests; Scott Ickert, Adiaphora, Ius Divinum and Ministry: A Lutheran Perspective; Margaret O'Gara, A Roman Catholic Perspective on Ius Divinum; Patrick Granfield, The Universality and Particularity of the Roman Catholic Church. Michael Root made a presentation on local and regional structures and ministries in the churches as a common basis for Lutheran Catholic mutual understanding and reconciliation. Discussion covered a wide range of topics that were necessary in understanding one anothers' churches and finding a common theological basis on which differences could be resolved.

The members of the dialogue were confident that they would be able to serve the churches and their quest for visible unity, by taking up some of the more difficult structural issues that have separated Protestants and Catholics for five hundred years.

The success of their earlier work in contribution to the Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith, signed by the Holy See and the Lutheran World Federation on October 31, 1999 in Augsburg, Germany, gave the dialogue group hope that their work is being taken seriously by the churches and is becoming influential in the lives of Christians around the world. This common doctrine of salvation (Justification by Faith) makes it possible to see the ecclesiastical divisions and structures in a new, and more hopeful, light.

On Saturday evening the group celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, with Bishop Richard Sklba, auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee and Catholic cochair of the dialogue presiding. Dr. Lowell Almen, General Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, brought greetings and a reflection to the congregation after communion. On Sunday morning the group worshiped with the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill. Bishop Sklba spoke to the congregation in the liturgy.