July 14, 1999

Lutherans and Catholics agree
salvation is by 'grace alone'

___GENEVA (RNS)--Lutheran and Roman Catholic officials have announced they have come to full agreement on the doctrine that "grace alone" leads to salvation, thus easing a dispute that was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation.
___The officials, speaking in Geneva, said the agreement also means the 16th century anathemas, or condemnations, the two churches leveled at one another--sometimes with vitriolic rhetoric--no longer apply.
___"The understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics," the agreement says.
___Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, said the joint declaration on justification is expected to be formally signed Oct. 31--celebrated as Reformation Day in Lutheran churches.
___The Lutheran World Federation includes 124 member organizations in 69 countries, with 57 million members. Its membership includes the largest body of Lutherans in the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
___The agreement involves three documents--an "official common statement," the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" and an annex to the declaration.
___The doctrine of justification says people become "right with God" because Jesus won their salvation through his life, death and resurrection and means salvation is a gift through faith and not because someone earns it.
___"Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to do good works," the joint declaration says.
___Lutherans have held justification is achieved by faith alone, while Catholics have historically believed good works contribute to growth in grace and that a reward in heaven is promised to these works.
___Cassidy told a news conference the new statement "explains clearly and unequivocally just what the two partners understand by their action of signing the joint declaration."


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