Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue: Pope Francis, the Eucharist, and Reception

In recent weeks, two significant events highlighted the significant progress made in Catholic-Lutheran dialogue over the last fifty years.


On 31 October, Reformation Day, the U.S. Catholic-Lutheran dialogue published a consensus statement, Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist. The Declaration draws on the fifty years of official dialogues to produce a litany of 32 consensus statements – a list of doctrinal agreements on the related topics of the Church, ministry, and the Eucharist, that have been achieved as a result of the dialogue, and which can no longer be said to be church-dividing issues.

The document has been affirmed by the ELCA Conference of Bishops and has been forwarded to the 2016 Churchwide Assembly and the Lutheran World Federation. On the Catholic side, it has been unanimously affirmed by the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and has been forwarded to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Two key points from the conclusion of From Conflict to Communion guided the work:

1)      Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.

2)      Lutherans and Catholics must let themselves continuously be transformed by the encounter with each other and by mutual witness of faith.

Too frequently, one can hear the complaint, “What has been achieved with all this dialogue?” as if to expect that the answer is nothing. It is easier for those of us too young to remember the time before the Council to think this way, growing up in an age when it was taken for granted that we should be ecumenically engaged, and little seems to have changed since the 1980s. The purpose of this document is to respond to the question, and to lay the groundwork for the next steps in the dialogue.

Long gone (since 1999) are the days when one could legitimately summarize the disparity on Catholic and Lutheran teaching on justification as “Protestants believe you are saved by faith alone, and Catholics that you are saved by faith and works”. Now too, a list of beliefs of central importance are recalled. The summary form makes it easy for preachers to integrate into their preaching, and catechists to integrate into their teaching. While wading through volumes of dialogue statements and notes might make a daunting task for the typical parish pastoral minister or Sunday school teacher, this entire document is about 100 pages and easily navigated.

Ecumenical Reception is precisely this concern. It is one thing for the Churches, through their official dialogues, to agree on an article of faith, but it is quite another for that to really sink in at the grassroots level. It has to be adopted and adapted at the local level, and the level of individual faith and the understanding of that faith. What good an agreement on justification or ecclesiology if the Sunday school teachers, the pulpit preachers, and the popular bloggers are still using outdated information and spreading stereotypes based on the misunderstandings and attitudes present before the dialogue began?

Catholics and Lutherans agree on the Church’s foundation in God’s saving work, in Scripture and the means of Grace, the Church as communion (koinonia) with visible and invisible elements, the communion of saints and the eschatological nature of the Church and its mission. We agree on ordained ministry as an essential element of the Church, the universal priesthood, the divine origin of ministry, the nature of ministerial authority, much of the nature of ordination, the unity of the orders of ministry, and the need for a ministry of worldwide unity. So too are there agreements on the Trinitarian and Christological dimension of the Eucharist, the Eucharist as a sacrificial memorial, the eschatological and ecclesiological dimensions of the Eucharist, and even on the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

Where work remains to be done is on some aspects of the nature of ordination and who may be ordained, and the question of what intermediate sacramental steps might be taken to help lead to reconciliation an full communion among the separated Christian communities. Before offering ‘next steps on the way’ it does suggest that “The possibility of occasional admission of members of our churches to Eucharistic communion with the other side (communicatio in sacris) could be offered more clearly and regulated more compassionately.”

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Almost as if in response to the document, Pope Francis visited Rome’s Evangelical Lutheran Church just a couple weeks later, on 15 November, and responded to a question about Eucharistic hospitality that suggested that Lutherans might receive communion as a matter of conscience, the normal conditions being met and in appropriate circumstances.

At first blush, this seems little more than an affirmation of the long standing practice of the Church articulated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which was virtually unchanged from the pre-Vatican II conditions.

According to the Code, for members of the churches and ecclesial communions born out of the Reformation (i.e., Anglicans and Protestants) to receive communion during a Catholic Eucharist, they must:

  1. Be baptized
  2. Be properly disposed
  3. Manifest Catholic faith in the sacrament (=Real Presence)
  4. Not have access to a minister of their own church or communion
  5. Approach the sacrament on their own accord
  6. Be motivated by “grave pastoral need”, such as danger of death; other situations to be determined (generally, not case-by-case) by the episcopal conference or diocesan bishop. (§844.4)

[Of course, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East, and Old Catholic Christians are allowed to participate in Catholic sacramental life at any time, with respect to the rules of their own traditions, essentially only needing baptism, disposition, and belief in the Real Presence, which are all assumed in these cases as well.]

In application, Lutherans always fulfill condition 1; all communicants are assumed to fulfill conditions 2 and 5, unless there is some grave public reason to know otherwise.

As the consensus statement above highlights, Catholics and Lutherans have long articulated agreement on the Real Presence, so being Lutheran is enough to fulfill condition 3.

Where there is usually some discussion, and frequent confusion, is:

  • what does it mean not to have access to a minister of their own church?
  • and what constitutes a grave pastoral need?

The 1993 Directory on the Application of Principals and Norms on Ecumenism offers an interpretive lens and some clarifications, noting that, “in certain circumstances, by way of exception, and under certain conditions, access to these sacraments may be permitted, or even commended, for Christians of other Churches and ecclesial Communities.” (§130)

Pope John Paul II similarly softened the language of condition 6 from “danger of death or other grave necessity” to simply “grave spiritual need” and reduced the requirements to this and baptism, proper disposition, and who freely approach the sacrament – eliminating the “lack of access to a minister of their own faith” as a condition. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia §34-46, esp. 45). Where bishops and bishops conferences have attended to their duty in this regard, ‘mixed’ marriage and family life is the most common example of a situation that meets these conditions.

Unfortunately, as with a great many of the Polish pope’s great achievements, he lead by example and larger-than-life theatrical symbols, and never changed the law itself to correspond with his actions or apparent intentions. One could hope that among the myriad reforms that the Church needs would be an updating of the Code to account for the developments in ecumenical dialogue over the last five decades.

Both John Paul II and the Directory take care to point out that this concerns individuals, not interim concelebration or general table fellowship, and that the purpose is always for the spiritual care of the individual and the motivation for full communion, with care that it not lead to indifferentism. Triumphalism about Catholic Eucharistic theology or practice is not part of the equation (in fact, it could be argued that if that is your attitude, you are not properly disposed to receive, owing to a sin of pride!)

In other words, it has not been valid for any informed Catholic to say that “non-Catholics may not (ever) receive communion at a Catholic Eucharist” since at least 1983.

Understanding of the conditions under which it is allowed has developed even since the Code was published, and these have to be considered as well, not just the Code itself. Moreover, it is already Church teaching and practice, explicitly in many jurisdictions and implicitly in others, that the Lutheran spouse of a Catholic could receive communion during the Catholic Eucharist, at least in some situations.

Pope Francis is merely reiterating this. But what he does, and has every right to do, as supreme pontiff and universal pastor, in light of real progress made by the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue on the Eucharist, is to frame it in a positive way. He could, in fact, change the Code itself to allow more frequent opportunities. He is, after all, the supreme legislator.

We already know that there are certain circumstances that a Lutheran can receive, Pope Francis is suggesting that it is a matter of conscience by the individual to determine when those conditions are fulfilled. This is, practically, just acknowledging the current practice of the Church: it is, after all, the conscience of the person that determines if they are properly disposed, whether there is spiritual need (and what constitutes ‘grave’), and motivates them to approach the sacrament.

The bishop of Rome also reminds us, as did Vatican II, that communion is not only the goal and sign of ecclesial communion achieved, but a viaticum for walking together (food for the journey) on the way to that unity. Under the right, carefully proscribed circumstances, the Church has taught for fifty years, certain occasions of Eucharistic hospitality is good for the soul, and for the ultimate goal of full communion.

The real progress made by dialogue necessitates a real change in discipline and practice, and we can see this in the (rather conservative) shifts from the Code to the Directory to John Paul II to Francis.

Anyone “confused” by the pope’s comments has probably not kept up with the development of Church teaching since the Council, and is unaware of the even previously-existing conditions (e.g., danger of death) that allowed a non-Catholic to receive communion from a Catholic minister.

What has changed with Pope Francis is that the ‘norm’ is now to take a more generous reading of the law – one in which the hermeneutic is mercy and the care of souls – rather than a rigorously constrained reading, without even offering a change in the law itself.


Into the Desert

As I continue my research fellowship at Tantur, marveling at the amount of work one can do on a doctorate when one has normal access to a library and is not working four or five part time jobs, I have had some occasions to join the sabbatical program on a couple of their excursions.

For the last two days, we went into the desert: Qumran, Masada, floating the Dead Sea, overnight at Kibbutz Mash’abei Sadeh, Makhtesh HaGadol, and lunch with a family of Negev Beduin.

Qumran is the archaeological site between the Dead Sea and the caves on the eastern slopes of the Judean mountains, just over 20 km due east of Jerusalem as the Tristramit fly. Eleven of the scores of caves in the hills contained over 900 manuscripts dating about 2000 years old, most of which include what later became the canonical books of the Hebrew Bible (except Esther), leading to some connections between Qumran and the treasury of scrolls found in the caves, and this is what drives interest in Qumran, as it is, by itself, a fairly small archaeological site. The scriptural texts were a millennium older than the previous oldest surviving manuscripts, giving us a measure for the development over time, and the impressive consistency.


Masada is a desert fortress situated on a massive mesa 53km southeast of Jerusalem, towering over the Dead Sea. To say it is impressive is an understatement almost as massive. Linked with the Hasmonean Maccabee revolt in the mid-second century before Christ, it was developed on a grand scale under Herod the Great in the 30s and 20s B.C., and used again by the Sicarii, the Zealots, during the revolt against the Romans that resulted in the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D./C.E. It was during this conflict that the Romans besieged Masada, recounted to us by Flavius Josephus (who was not actually present). The remains of the roman siege can still be seen: several siege camps and a siege wall are still visible from high up in the fortress, as is a massive ramp built by the Romans to access the fortress from the desert floor without having to scramble up the narrow ‘snake path’ that lead to the front gate.


Masada, Roman siege ramp on right

The Dead Sea probably needs little explanation, but it is hard to describe the feeling of getting in and feeling the seemingly unnatural buoyancy, owing to its 35% salinity. It is said that when Vespasian came to the Sea during the Roman-Jewish War in the late 60’s, he threw Jewish prisoners into the sea while bound to see if they really would float – and they did, despite being unable to swim. Then valuable for its salt, now the stuff piles up uselessly as the lake is process more for other minerals: bromides, potash, magnesium. More than 400 meters below sea level (at the surface) and another 300m deep, the salt lake is receding at a rate of one meter (about 3’6”) per year. This is dramatically seen when one comes across one of the spas built on the shore in the mid-1980s – now so far from the water that one has to take a shuttle to get from the spa to the lake. Surprising to me was how many tourists come to Israel simply to spend a week at the Dead Sea for its health benefits, never once spending anytime at the holy sites, exploring the cultural heritage, history, or even political situation of the land.


We then spent the night at Kibbutz Mash’abei Sadeh. The kibbutzim are pretty well known around the world, but maybe only in a general sense. Years ago I remember talking with a group of friends about how we would love to have all the benefits of religious community life without the necessary obligations of living in single-sex communities or that the only state of life option would be vowed chastity. We had images of a large plot of land with cabins for privacy and a common space for joint activities, including a library, fencing gym, dojo, and common area for games and socializing. I do not think it occurred to any of us that we had described something that already existed in practice, so different did it seem than the usual expectation in the States of buying into your own private slice of life separate from everyone around you. This kibbutz is 66 years old, with about 200 members and another couple of hundred residents. Like most, there has been some accommodation to privatization, but education, health care, and culture remain communitarian. Everyone contributes their salary to the community fund, whether physician or janitor, and is given an equal stipend on top of the common needs being met.

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Makhtesh HaGadol, in the Negev

The morning took us to what ought to be one of the natural wonders of the world. The Makhtesh HaGadol, or the large Makhtesh, is often referred to as a crater but is something altogether different. Where a crater is the result of an extraterrestrial impact or volcanic explosion, the Makhteshim are what happen when you erode the insides of a mountain out while leaving part of the shell behind. Ten kilometers long and five wide, the slopes of the original mountain are still visible, covered in limestone, while the soft sandstone middle has long since been eroded away. It is more than half a kilometer  drop from the top of the rim to the central basin below. In the quiet of the morning, under a hot sun and a cool breeze, we spent some time in quiet prayer and contemplation. Let the words of Elijah’s encounter with God shape our reflection:

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

We then went to the house of the ‘mayor’ of one of the Negev’s ‘unrecognizedBedouin communities, Kashem Zaneh, for discussion and lunch. The Bedouin are Arabs demarked by their nomadic desert life – the word itself (Arabic, badawi) derives from bada (desert) and simply means “those who dwell in the desert”. The people of Israel entire were badawi during the Exodus. Yet, the Bedouin of the Negev were often less nomadic than their counterparts in other deserts, the village we visited tracing its history back at least five centuries. Temporary construction marks the villages, not unlike some First Nations reservations I have seen in North America. Corrugated steel seems to be the construction material of choice, along with semi-permanent tents. It was a Bedouin goatherd who discovered the Dead Sea scrolls near Qumran.

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Kashem Zaneh, Bedouin village


Their political situation is tenuous – full Israeli citizens, and living outside of the Palestinian territories, but restricted to a zone around Be’er Sheva covering about 2% of their traditional range, the 100,000 or so Bedouin have to choose between living in one of about eight recognized communities, giving up their traditional life, or staying on their homeland with none of the benefits of the modern state. We were told the Israeli Education ministry spends as much on transporting the 700 Bedouin children from this village to school 15km away each year as it would cost to actually build a school on site – which is not done because it remains an unrecognized community.


The well at Tel Be’er Sheva – 2700 years old and 70 meters deep

Finally, we stopped at Tel Be’er Sheva, the archaeological site associated with the patriarch Abraham and his first settling in the promised land. A well remains that, though not old enough to be the original, dates back around 2,700 years. We first encounter Be’er Sheva (Beersheba) in Genesis 21, as the place of the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech, giving the place its name: the well of the covenant, or the well of the seven (the ewes Abraham offered to Abimelech to prove his ownership of the well).

Just a few lines beforehand, however, the first reference is attached ot one of the most significant moments in the Bible for contemporary Israeli-Arab relations. It is from here that Abraham sends away his concubine Hagar and her son Ishmael, who is destined to become the father of the Arab peoples, and the forefather of Mohamed, while Moses and Jesus both descended from the line of his half-brother Isaac.

The archaeological evidence shows habitation back to at least 4000 years before Christ, into the bronze age, an estimated 2200 years before Abraham. According to the Hebrew Bible, this is the southernmost city settles by the Israelites.

Little ways to be ecumenical: Saints

From PrayTell: Worship, Wit, and Wisdom:

The Pope has halted the canonization process for Aloysius Stepinac, the Croation Catholic Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 until his death in 1960.  Pope John Paul II had beatified the fiercely anti-communist archbishop, who spent many years in prison and under house arrest in Communist Yugoslavia, in 1998. The archbishop’s actions during World War II, however, especially his ties to the Nazi-aligned, murderous Ustaše regime, have raised criticism not only from the Serbian Orthodox Church but also from other victim groups.

Pope Francis has now halted the all-but-complete process of canonization for Stepinac and established a commission of Catholic and Serbian Orthodox experts instead, which will look more closely into the archbishop’s actions during World War II.  The Pope’s decision was described as an “unexpected ecumenical step, without any historical precedent,” according to the German-language website Oekuemenisches Heiligenlexikon (

I wonder if it is really without historical precedent, though…


Pope Francis: Lutherans at Catholic Eucharist

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Rev. Jens-Martin Kruse with Pope Francis

During a visit to Rome’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pope Francis was asked about conditions under which a Lutheran could receive communion at her husband’s Catholic church.

Question:  My name is Anke de Bernardinis and, like many people in our community, I’m married to an Italian, who is a Catholic Christian. We’ve lived happily together for many years, sharing joys and sorrows. And so we greatly regret being divided in faith and not being able to participate in the Lord’s Supper together. What can we do to achieve, finally, communion on this point?

Pope Francis: The question on sharing the Lord’s Supper isn’t easy for me to respond to, above all in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper! I’m scared!

I think of how the Lord told us when he gave us this command to “do this in memory of me,” and when we share the Lord’s Supper, we recall and we imitate the same as the Lord. And there will be the Lord’s Supper, there will be the eternal banquet in the new Jerusalem, but that will be the last one. In the meantime, I ask myself — and don’t know how to respond — what you’re asking me, I ask myself the question. To share the Lord’s banquet: is it the goal of the path or is it the viaticum [provisions] for walking together? I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand.

It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine – underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand — but I ask myself: but don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together? You’re a witness also of a profound journey, a journey of marriage: a journey really of the family and human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same Baptism.

When you feel yourself to be a sinner – and I feel more of a sinner – when your husband feels a sinner, you go to the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks absolution. I’m healed to keep alive the Baptism. When you pray together, that Baptism grows, becomes stronger. When you teach your kids who Jesus is, why Jesus came, what Jesus did for us, you’re doing the same thing, whether in the Lutheran language or the Catholic one, but it’s the same. The question: and the [Lord’s] Supper? There are questions that, only if one is sincere with oneself and with the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself. This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me – this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.

I once had a great friendship with an Episcopalian bishop who went a little wrong – he was 48 years old, married, two children. This was a discomfort to him – a Catholic wife, Catholic children, him a bishop. He accompanied his wife and children to Mass on Sunday, and then went to worship with his community. It was a step of participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, the Lord called him, a just man. To your question, I can only respond with a question: what can I do with my husband, because the Lord’s Supper accompanies me on my path?

It’s a problem each must answer, but a pastor-friend once told me: “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present. You all believe that the Lord is present. And so what’s the difference?” — “Eh, there are explanations, interpretations.” Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism. “One faith, one baptism, one Lord.” This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there. I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.

Translation from Edward Pentin at National Catholic Register:

Declaration on the Way: Catholic-Lutheran consensus on the Church, Ministry, and Eucharist

The Catholic-Lutheran consensus document, Declaration on the Way, lists 32 agreements that have been reached over the last 50 years of dialogue between the two communions. The following excerpt is the list of doctrinal agreements, made easy for reception and incorporation into parish preaching and catechetical teaching. Each is explored more fully in the document itself.

It can also serve as an examination of conscience: Have i ever promoted a stereotype of the other, thereby perpetuating a sinful division on what is not actually a church-dividing issue?

Declaration ont eh way

Bishop Dennis Madden, USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA Presiding Bishop

Agreements on the Church

The Church’s Foundation in God’s Saving Work

(1) Catholics and Lutherans agree that the church on earth has been assembled by the triune God, who grants to its members their sharing in the triune divine life as God’s own people, as the body of the risen Christ, and as the temple of the Holy Spirit, while they are also called to give witness to these gifts so that others may come to share in them.

(2) They agree as well that the church on earth arose from the whole event of Jesus Christ, who remains its sole foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11).

(3) Further, they hold in common that the church on earth is gathered by the proclamation of the gospel of God’s saving mercy in Christ, so that the gospel, proclaimed in the Holy Spirit by the apostles, remains the church’s normative origin and abiding foundation.

(4) An agreement follows that the church on earth is in every age apostolic, because it is founded upon the apostles’ witness to the gospel and it continuously professes the apostolic and evangelical faith while living by mandated practices handed on from the apostles. Thus, Lutherans and Catholics recognize in both their ecclesial communities the attribute of apostolicity grounded in their ongoing continuity in apostolic faith, teaching and practices.

The Word, Scripture and Means of Grace

(5) Lutherans and Catholics agree that the church on earth lives from and is ruled by the Word of God, which it encounters in Christ, in the living word of the gospel, and in the inspired and canonical Scriptures. (6) They are one in holding that the church on earth participates in Christ’s benefits through the historical and perceptible actions of proclaiming the gospel and celebrating the sacraments, as initiated by Christ and handed on by his apostles.

Communion, Visibility and Hiddenness

(7) Catholics and Lutherans agree that the church on earth is a communion (koinonia). It shares in God’s gifts offered for us by Christ, which, by being held in common, bring believers into unity and fellowship with each other.

(8) Consequently, they agree that the church on earth combines audible and visible elements with profound spiritual realities that remain hidden from empirical investigation and perception. Preservation of the Church and Union with the Saints

(9) Catholics and Lutherans agree that the church on earth is indefectible, because it is and will be preserved by the Holy Spirit in all its aspects essential for salvation. They share the certainty of Christian hope that the church, established by Christ and led by his Spirit, will always remain in the truth fulfilling its mission to humanity for the sake of the gospel.

(10) They furthermore agree that the church on earth is united with the community of the saints in glory.

Eschatology and Mission

(11) This perspective gives rise to agreement that the church on earth is an anticipatory reality, on pilgrimage and expectant of reaching its final destination in God’s ultimate gathering of his people in their entirety, when Christ returns, and when the Holy Spirit completes the work of sanctification.

(12) But Catholics and Lutherans agree as well that the church on earth is mandated to carry out a mission in which it participates in God’s activity in the world by evangelization, worship, service of humanity and care for creation.


Agreements on Ordained Ministry

In “Agreements on the Church,” Catholics and Lutherans affirm the ecclesial character of one another’s communities. This affirmation is an essential first step toward a mutual recognition of ordained ministry, for mutual recognition of one another’s ecclesial character is intertwined with the mutual recognition of one another’s ministry.

Ministry in the Church

(13) Lutherans and Catholics agree that the ordained ministry belongs to the essential elements that express the church’s apostolic character and that it also contributes, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to the church’s continuing apostolic faithfulness.

(14) Catholics and Lutherans agree that all the baptized who believe in Christ share in the priesthood of Christ. For both Catholics and Lutherans, the common priesthood of all the baptized and the special, ordained ministry enhance one another.

Divine Origin of Ministry

(15) Lutherans and Catholics affirm together that ordained ministry is of divine origin and that it is necessary for the being of the church. Ministry is not simply a delegation “from below,” but is instituted by Jesus Christ.

(16) We both affirm that all ministry is subordinated to Christ, who in the Holy Spirit is acting in the preaching of the Word of God, in the administration of the sacraments, and in pastoral service.

(17) Lutherans and Catholics agree that the proclamation of the gospel is foremost among the various tasks of the ordained ministry.

(18) They declare in common that the essential and specific function of the ordained minister is to assemble and build up the Christian community by proclaiming the word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and presiding over the liturgical, missionary and diaconal life of the community.

Authority of Ministry

(19) The authority of the ministry is not to be understood as an individual possession of the minister, but it is rather an authority with the commission to serve in the community and for the community.

(20) Catholics and Lutherans also agree that the office of ministry stands over against (gegenüber) the community as well as within it and thus is called to exercise authority over the community.


(21) Catholics and Lutherans agree that entry into this apostolic and God-given ministry is not by baptism but by ordination. They agree that ministers cannot ordain themselves or claim this office as a matter of right but are called by God and designated in and through the church.

(22) Catholics and Lutherans both ordain through prayer invoking the Holy Spirit and with the laying on of hands by another ordained person. Both affirm that the ordinand receives an anointing of the Holy Spirit, who equips that person for ordained ministry.

(23) Both Lutherans and Catholics regard ordination as unrepeatable.

One Ministerial Office

(24) Both consider that there is one ordained ministerial office, while also distinguishing a special ministry of episkope over presbyters/pastors.

(25) They agree that the ministry is exercised both locally in the congregation and regionally. Both accept that the distinction between local and regional offices in the churches is more than the result of purely historical and human developments, or a matter of sociological necessity, but is the action of the Spirit. Furthermore, the differentiation of the ministry into a more local and a more regional office arises of necessity out of the intention and task of ministry to be a ministry of unity in faith.

Ministry Serving Worldwide Unity

(26) Catholics and Lutherans affirm together that all ministry, to the degree that it serves the koinonia of salvation, also serves the unity of the worldwide church and that together we long for a more complete realization of this unity.


Agreements on the Eucharist

High Esteem for Eucharistic Union with Christ in Holy Communion

(27) Lutherans and Catholics agree in esteeming highly the spiritual benefits of union with the risen Christ given to them as they receive his body and blood in Holy Communion. Trinitarian Dimension of Eucharist

(28) Catholics and Lutherans agree that in Eucharistic worship the church participates in a unique way in the life of the Trinity: In the power of the Holy Spirit, called down upon the gifts and the worshiping community, believers have access to the glorified flesh and blood of Christ the Son as our food, and are brought in union with him and with each other to the Father. Eucharist as Reconciling Sacrifice of Christ and as Sacrifice of the Church’s Praise and Thanksgiving

(29) Catholics and Lutherans agree that Eucharistic worship is the memorial (anamnesis) of Jesus Christ, present as the one crucified for us and risen, that is, in his sacrificial self-giving for us in his death and in his resurrection (Romans 4:25), to which the church responds with its sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

Eucharistic Presence

(30) Lutherans and Catholics agree that in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus Christ himself is present: He is present truly, substantially, as a person, and he is present in his entirety, as Son of God and a human being.

Eschatological Dimension of Eucharist

(31) Catholics and Lutherans agree that Eucharistic Communion, as sacramental participation in the glorified body and blood of Christ, is a pledge that our life in Christ will be eternal, our bodies will rise, and the present world is destined for transformation, in the hope of uniting us in communion with the saints of all ages now with Christ in heaven.

Eucharist and Church

(32) Lutherans and Catholics agree that sharing in the celebration of the Eucharist is an essential sign of the unity of the church, and that the reality of the church as a community is realized and furthered sacramentally in the Eucharistic celebration. The Eucharist both mirrors and builds the church in its unity

An Israeli Arab and a Palestinian Jew walk into a bar… 

 (…if I had included this entry in the previous post as originally intended, the setup would have included a Russian nun.)

First, a disclaimer: I am an amateur in observing the processes for peace and justice in the Middle East. As an American I have an affinity for and support of Israel, as a Christian a sense of solidarity with many Palestinians, as a Catholic adamantly against anti-Semitism or any form of religious discrimination, and as an educator and practitioner of dialogue a commitment to non-violence and the truth. My limitations are such – neither speaking Hebrew nor Arabic, not being a native or a professional diplomat or peacemaker – that I have always known there were others who would understand the situation better. But I hope to learn more in these months. It sometimes, probably naively, seems like it would actually take little effort – it simply must be willed. The majority of people I meet could live with one another without problem, given the chance. I will offer further reflections on the current situation and overall concerns at a later time.


Efrat, Israeli settlement/disputed development, south of Bethlehem.

In the last week, I have tagged along with the sabbatical students of Tantur’s continuing education program – mostly priests, with a couple of religious – for a “dual-narrative” tour and conversations. I understand this set up was something of an experiment for Tantur, and I personally think it worked very well.

Two experienced guides, one Israeli, one Palestinian, traded off presentations designed to introduce participants into the overriding narratives in the region regarding the current situation. And, unsurprisingly, to suggest that it is black and white, and only two-sided, is erroneous.  Yet, many of us were only familiar with one or the other. (I have had an excellent introduction to Judaism and Israel, through the Shalom Hartmann Institute and the Russell Berrie Fellowship, but, while I have a good grasp of Islam generally, the specific Palestinian story was less firm in my mind; others had the opposite experience).

The most impressive feature was probably the positive dynamic between our two guides, and their openness to learn from one another, even as we learned from them. AS much as was possible, we had them both together, though occasionally separately.

We started with a presentation on the history of Zionism and its various movements. Then a presentation on Palestinian nationalism, and the shift from Arab to pan-Islam identity. We drove from Jerusalem to Jaffa-Tel Aviv along Route One, getting an interwoven dialogue of the history of the Israeli War of Independence; the displacement of Palestinians (mostly Muslim) from Israel and of Jews from the Arab countries (in roughly equal numbers); the stories of villages destroyed and of those survived. We visited the old city of Jaffa, the first Jewish neighborhood outside the old city, Neve Tzedek, and ended at Rabin Square, visiting the site of the former Prime Minister’s 1995 assassination.

The iconic image of peace in the Middle East from my youth.

The iconic image of peace in the Middle East from my youth.

Oh, and we saw a couple gazelle along the road, too.

Our second day included a presentation by a couple of young workers involved in the Christian Peacemaker Teams based in Hebron, detailing their role as observers of the relationship between the Palestinian locals, Israeli settlers, the IDF and Border Patrol. Lunch at a famous restaurant above Shepherd’s Field, The Tent, was delicious and enlightening,conversation lead as it was by the regional director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace, a “network of organizations that conduct civil society work in conflict transformation, development, coexistence and cooperative activities…among Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs, and Jews.” In the afternoon we visited with a Christian Palestinian and an Israeli Jew, a former Seattleite turned settler, involved in an organization called Roots, which “draws Israelis and Palestinians who, despite living next to each other, are separated by walls of fear- not just fear of each other, but even of the price of peace.” We rounded out the day at the disputed Israeli development at Efrat, located in Judea/West Bank. A current population of about 10,000 is split into roughly 20% secular, 20% Haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”), and 60% Orthodox/Observant Jews, it was founded in 1983.

At the end of the day as we gathered for evening prayer, we found Tantur overrun by children. Turns out the seasonal gathering of Kids4Peace had been bumped out of their scheduled location and had had some trouble finding a place – some locations made some members uncomfortable, and unbelievably, some places did not want them. Who could object to kids wanting peace, getting to know each other? It was a beautiful benediction wrapping up a couple of intensive days, and a compelling reminder of what is at stake here in the land called holy.

While still processing much of the information and experience, i am a small step closer to understanding each of the narratives that often seem impossible to come from the same situation. And there are, as in every situation, exceptions and variations. It is also amazing how people living in such a small area,in such close proximity to one another can have so little contact with each other. This is one of the dangers of the current situation. As a couple people have noted, at least the older residents remember living side by side with someone who was “other”. Now, for the millennials, this sort of thing has never been part of their experience. How much easier is it, then, to establish increasingly divergent narratives?

Russian Orthodox Mission in the Holy Land 

mary magdalen church

The Russian Orthodox have the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen on the Mount of Olives, including the sites of the Tombs of the Prophets and (one site of) the grotto of Gethsemane, just up the hill from the Franciscans at the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane.

Tsar Alexander III acquired the land here in the late nineteenth century, and had the church consecrated in 1888 in memory of his (German) mother, Empress Maria Alexandrovna. The Tsar sent his brother, Grand Duke Segei Alexandrovich and his wife Grand Duchess Elzabeth Fedorovna as the official delegation to the consecration. The Grand Duchess was so taken with the place that, after her husband’s assassination in 1905, she founded the monastic community of Martha and Mary in Moscow. During the Revolution, in 1918, she and her cellmate, Sister Barbara, were taken and thrown into a mine-shaft near Alapayevsk in the Urals. Their bodies were recovered and eventually brought to rest here at the Church of Mary Magdalen in 1921. They were declared martyrs in 1981.

mary magdalen church 4

The monastic community here owes its origins to two Anglican converts who started the community in 1933. At about the same time, the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary “Hodigitria” (the Unburnt Bush) arrived at the church. Under previous custody of Metropolitan Ilias of Lebanon, he is said to have dreamt three times that the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, ordering him to give the icon to the care of the Abbess Maria in Palestine.

Our visits here included a informative tour by a French brother who was responsible for the guest house and the holy sites. The first of which has been known since the medieval period the Tombs of the Prophets Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi (d. circa 500 BC).  Archaeological research dates the tombs to the first and early second century AD, however. There is evidence of both Jewish and Judeo-Christian burial at the site, and it is in the middle of the massive Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

Both the Franciscans and the Russians have caves believed to be the grotto where the apostles rested as Jesus prayed during his final hours in the Garden before Judas’ betrayal. The Franciscan site is within the cave complex of Mary’s tomb, north of the Garden. The Russian site is uphill, to the east of the Garden. In this, the former was probably an olive press, and the later might make a likelier candidate. Our visit concluded with vespers sung by the nuns, beautifully ‘interrupted’ near the end by the call of the muezzin across the valley, where the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque were clearly visible form the steps of the church.

We also were afforded a quick visit to the Benedictine Monastery of the Mount of Olives – with a sister of the Monastery of Bose as porter – where one of the sisters has written several icons. As we were approaching the weekend of the feast of Our Lady of Palestine, that image is included here:

OL Palestine

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