ELCA NEWS SERVICE
February 22, 2012
ELCA, Vatican leaders meet
CHICAGO (ELCA) - In gratitude for the "unity in Christ" between the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson shared with Pope Benedict XVI a sense of urgency between Lutherans and Catholics in responding to the "great needs of poverty and human care" in the world.
Hanson led a delegation of ELCA leaders to meet with Pope Benedict and other Catholic Church leaders Feb. 14-16 at the Vatican. The ELCA and its predecessor church bodies have been in active dialogue with the Catholic Church since the 1960s.
In his greeting to Pope Benedict, Hanson said, "As Catholics and Lutherans, we have a renewed commitment to unity in Christ.
"We recognize that there is urgency in our joining Catholics to respond to the great needs of poverty and human care. Being stewards of creation and working toward peace throughout the world are commitments that Christians are able to share in daily life and in our ministries of care," he said.
"With you, we pray for peace. As we see the suffering in Syria, in Africa, and in the Middle East, we join your call for peace throughout the world. As Lutherans, we share this call and commitment with you and the leaders of the Abrahamic faiths. This time calls for Jews, Christians and Muslims to deepen our understanding of one another and our resolve to work together to build a world of peace with justice."
Hanson also shared his deep respect for Pope Benedict, his ministry of oversight, and for the well-being of the Catholic Church. He also asked that Pope Benedict and Catholic Church leaders remember in prayer The Lutheran World Federation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America "as we promise to remember you in our petitions to our gracious God."
The ELCA is the only U.S. Lutheran church in The Lutheran World Federation, a global communion representing more than 70 million Christians worldwide.
Accompanying Hanson in the delegation were the Rev. Jessica R. Crist, chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops and bishop of the ELCA Montana Synod; the Rev. Robert D. Hofstad, bishop of the ELCA Southwestern Washington Synod; and the Rev. Donald J. McCoid, assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop on ecumenical and inter-religious relations.
Together they met with several Catholic Church leaders as "Christians in dialogue," said Hanson. "These engagements are signs of a mature ecumenical relationship," he said.
In the United States, the ELCA and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have recently completed an eleventh round of dialogue. During their meetings at the Vatican, the ELCA leaders presented "The Hope of Eternal Life" -- a common statement from the eleventh round of dialogue -- to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The common statement offers fresh insights into some issues that proved contentious in the debates of the 16th century, such as the communion of saints, prayers for or about the dead, the meaning of death, purgation, the promise of the resurrection and more.
The current round of dialogue, "Ministries of Teaching: Sources, Shapes and Essential Contents," will address through the lens of Scripture areas of morality, ethics and theology, looking at the Bible as an authoritative source for teaching ministries.
According to McCoid, members from the Council for Promoting Christian Unity affirmed the dialogues and shared the importance of "coming back to what we have in common. This will help us remember what we have done and harvest the fruits toward unity."
McCoid said the ELCA delegation received an update on the dialogue between The Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. A statement on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation is being developed. Information about the Catholic Church's emphasis on the Year of Faith was shared. It will include an ecumenical focus and accomplishments as the 50th anniversary of Vatican II is observed.
"Ecumenism is central to the ELCA's mission and identity," said McCoid. "Our meetings provided an opportunity to discuss the depth of mutual concerns, celebrate the round on 'The Hope of Eternal Life' and affirmed the systematic approach in the current round on authority."
For Crist, ELCA members and Catholics have "come to a point where we can celebrate our unity and talk about our differences and concerns in the spirit of Christian unity."
In response to the meetings at the Vatican, Hofstad said he was encouraged "both by our reception as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America representatives and by the affirmation on the part of Catholic leaders that we must continue our joint ecumenical relationship."
During their time in Rome, ELCA leaders also met with Archbishop Luis Ladaria, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith; Monsignor Michael Crotty, from the Secretariate of State for questions regarding the Near East; and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Click here for information about the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with approximately 4.2 million members in 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com