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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Vatican ready to sign justification document

Despite assurances from Vatican sources that Rome is ready to sign "without delay and in its integrity"a joint declaration with Lutherans resolving 450 years of dispute over the meaning of justification by faith, the Lutheran World Federation's executive committee will decide this month whether to proceed with signing.

Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, wrote Ishmael Noko, LWF general secretary, to clarify "misreadings" of the official Roman Catholic response. Cassidy said there had been a "very one-sided reading" of the response "on the part of some Lutheran commentators."

In his letter, Cassidy said that only the first part of the official Vatican statement should be "considered strictly a response." The latter "clarifications" were "points requiring further dialogue" but were not intended "as going back in any way" on Rome's acceptance of the document. The clarifications don't negate the consensus and shouldn't create problems for further study, he continued.

The letter, dated July 30, was released early in September. Noko said, "[The latest letter from Cassidy] is an attempt to clarify what should have been clarified from the beginning." Noko also squelched a rumor that Rome's unclarity stemmed from a difference of opinion between Cassidy and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The LWF Council endorsed the declaration in June after receiving positive responses from 80 Lutheran churches around the world that represent 54.7 million members. Five churches said "no."

Among issues for which the LWF is seeking clarification is whether the Vatican's reservations about the Lutheran understanding of "saint and sinner at the same time" means that the Vatican is not lifting its 16th century condemnation of that doctrine.


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