Pope notes progress in Lutheran-Catholic dialogue over justification

On Monday morning, Pope Benedict XVI received an ecumenical delegation of Finnish Lutherans and Catholics on the Feast of St. Henry, patron saint of Finland. The Holy Father spoke with the group about the progress made on a joint declaration about justification.

The ecumenical delegation, which was led by Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Bishop Gustav Björkstrand on an annual pilgrimage to Rome for the Feast of St. Henry, met with the Pope at the Vatican.

Addressing the group in English, the Pope noted that "The Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland and Sweden continues to consider the 'Joint Declaration on Justification.' This year we celebrate the tenth anniversary of this significant statement, and the commission is now studying its implications and the possibility of its reception."

Pope Benedict also highlighted the progress the dialogue has made in taking "ever fuller account of the nature of the Church as the sign and instrument of the salvation brought about in Jesus Christ, and not simply a mere assembly of believers or an institution with various functions."

Noting that the group's pilgrimage to Rome coincides with the Pauline Year, the Holy Father took the occasion to make a foray into the Catholic understanding of St. Paul’s teaching on the Church. "St. Paul reminds us of the marvelous grace we have received by becoming members of Christ's Body through Baptism. The Church is this mystical Body of Christ, and is continuously guided by the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of the Father and the Son.

"It is only based on this incarnational reality," he said in closing, "that the sacramental character of the Church as communion in Christ can be understood. A consensus with regard to the profoundly Christological and pneumatological (study of the Spirit) implications of the mystery of the Church would prove a most promising basis for the commission's work."

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