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LWF says 'not yet' to signing with Rome

The Lutheran World Federation said Nov. 14 that "further consultation" with the Vatican is needed before the federation can sign the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

Last June, the LWF Council approved the joint declaration that resolves a 4-centuries-old theological dispute and allows for lifting the mutual condemnations between the churches at the time of the Reformation. The Vatican response a week later agreed "there is a consensus in basic truths" of the doctrine but raised some differences that would bring the lifting of the condemnations into question.

ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson, an LWF vice president, told the ELCA Church Council that prior to the Nov. 13-14 meeting of the LWF Council's executive committee, two German theologians met with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and other Vatican officials. Anderson said the group reached agreement on "saint and sinner at the same time," the issue the Vatican questioned about Lutheran teaching. But when the English text of the agreement reached the LWF executive committee, Anderson said, it was different from what had been agreed upon. Exchanges of faxes failed to clarify the situation, leading the LWF Council to say that more time is needed for consultations.

"A joint signature can take place only if there is a common understanding of what is being signed," said Ishmael Noko, LWF general secretary.

Cardinal Edward Cassidy, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said he hopes the Vatican and the LWF can sign the declaration later this year.

"We are in the last phase of a 30-year dialogue, so what is six months?" added LWF President Christian Krause, noting that the LWF Council's next meeting is scheduled for June.


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