CHICAGO, Dec. 15, 2005 (Church Excutive Magazine)-- Focusing on the theme, "The Hope for Eternal Life," a new round of the U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue began here, 40 years after the first talks between the two religious traditions began. More than 20 Lutheran and Roman Catholic leaders and theologians participated in the first meeting of Round XI at the Cenacle Conference and Retreat Center here Dec. 1-4.
The topics the round addresses include Lutheran-Roman Catholic differences over issues relating to the Christian's life beyond death, including issues such as purgatory, indulgences, and masses and prayers for the dead. Interest in dealing with "The Hope for Eternal Life" was related to the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) in 1999, Almen said.
The JDDJ was signed by leaders of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and The Vatican in Augsburg, Germany, on Oct.31, 1999. With the JDDJ the LWF and the Vatican agreed to a basic understanding of the doctrine of justification and declared that certain 16th century condemnations of each other no longer apply.
Dialogue leaders are also aware that leaders of the LWF and the Vatican are talking about the possibility of joint events and observances leading up to 2017, the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of the 95 theses, which started the Protestant Reformation. Also, the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II document, "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation," is in 2015.
The opening meeting included presentation of papers and discussion on a variety of topics such as the Council of Trent, Lutheran Confessions on the hope for eternal life, biblical overviews, indulgences, and Lutheran and Roman Catholic funeral rites.
"One of the things that I think is most important about this particular theme is that it's talking about being in the presence of God," Kennedy said. The theme of the current round of dialogue can give people "God's gift of hope," he said.
"This is hope not just for Lutherans and Catholics. This is hope for other Christians, all working together," he said.