Thursday, 24 September 2009

Agreement on Justification Marks 10 Years
WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 23, 2009 ( An evening prayer service will mark the 10th anniversary of the landmark agreement on the doctrine of justification signed by Catholics and Lutherans, and later approved by Methodists.

Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. episcopal conference, and Lutheran Bishop Mark Hanson will lead the Oct. 1 prayer service in Chicago. The agreement was signed Oct. 31, 1999, by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation. Methodists joined the agreement in 2006.

"This is an historic moment on the journey toward Christian unity," said Father James Massa, executive director for the bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. "The Joint Declaration expressed a common understanding of how human beings are made right with God through the life-giving death of Jesus Christ."

The declaration was the fruit of some 35 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue since the issue of justification was one of the first points of controversy raised by Martin Luther.

The joint declaration, while it does not clarify every point of discord between Catholic and Protestant understandings (merit and indulgences are not addressed, for example), expresses a joint confession: "By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works."

The president of the Vatican's council for promoting Christian unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, has expressed the hope that the declaration will lead to more prayer in common.

"May it encourage us," he said, "to continue our theological dialogue, and building on our common foundations, may it lead to an increase in joint witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

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