Lutherans and Roman Catholics declared a common understanding on the doctrine of justification, the basic issue that divided the church in the 16th century and launched the Protestant Reformation.
Approved June 16 by the Lutheran World Federation Council and accepted by the Vatican on June 25, the declaration states, "Together we confess: 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 carefully nuanced statement is based on 30 years of discussions between Lutheran and Catholic theologians. It reverses nearly 500 years of disagreement. A signing ceremony and "celebration of the consensus achieved" is planned for the fall, perhaps in eastern Europe. The ceremony likely will involve the LWF president, Bishop Christian Krause of the Lutheran Church of Braunschweig, Germany, and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, head of the Pontifical Commission for Promoting Christian Unity.
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