Catholics, Reformed Christian Churches sign document recognizing common baptism

.- According to a press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic and Reformed churches have recently made “significant” progress toward mutual understanding, signing a document that recognizes their common baptism.

The Reformed-Catholic Consultation met at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, Oct. 8-10. News of the signing was issued on Nov. 22.

“Roman Catholics and representatives of Reformed bodies say clearly to each other, to the larger world, and, - perhaps most importantly - to local parishes and ecclesially divided families - that we embrace each other as pilgrims who share a common baptism in Jesus Christ,” said Richard Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary.

“The current dialogue between members of the Reformed tradition and the Roman Catholic tradition is a conversation on what we believe about Baptism and how we celebrate this sacrament liturgically. Our discussions clarify where we are one and where we differ, so that we may find the road to closer unity in our common apostolic Christian faith,” commented Bishop Patrick Cooney of Gaylord, Mich.

Most of the conversation centered on a 50-page report on sacramentality in the two churches, called “Mutual Recognition.”

“Already signaled in ‘Lumen Gentium’ (1964), the validity of Christian baptism creates the necessary precondition for the possibility of ecumenism since it establishes an ecclesial reality of real, though imperfect, communion. Any diminishment of that unity puts the ecumenical movement toward fully visible communion at serious risk,” a press statement said.

Participants agreed to a trajectory through October 2007 to conclude work on baptism. In view of the request from the Vatican, plans were also set in motion to begin a study of the relationship of baptism to the Eucharist, and the role of both sacraments in shaping the churches and drawing them toward fuller communion.

The dialogue was established in 1965, and is currently sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, the Reformed Church in America, the Christian Reformed Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Church of Christ. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America sends an observer.

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