Are Lutherans Next? Lutherans Seek Full Communion with Catholic Church
The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit
Pope Benedict XVI's first Papal message: 'With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty.'
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On Tuesday, Peter Kemmether, a married 62 year old father of four children was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller. Fr. Peter was granted a dispensation from the canonical discipline of celibacy attached to priestly ordination. He had been a Protestant Pastor who came into the full communion of the Catholic Church as the fruit of a sincere search for the fullness of the Christian faith. On June 6, 2010, I read a story in the Philadelphia Enquirer entitled "The Priest and his Mrs." concerning now Fr. Philip Johnson, a Lutheran Pastor for 19 years, who followed a similar path. He was ordained for the Diocese of Camden with the same exception, under the sponsorship and invitation of Bishop Joseph Galante.
Catholics are becoming aware of the former Anglican and Episcopal ministers who have followed the same journey home. Fewer Catholics are aware of the marvelous welcome the Church has extended to many more through the historic apostolic constitution approved by Pope Benedict XI. I have written extensively about this and recently shared my joy with our readers at the ordination of lifelong friend and pro-life hero Fr. Paul Schenck, whose ordination I had the privilege of attending last month. You can read my account here.
I am in a dialogue with Archbishop Irl A. Gladfelter, CSP, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church, a group of Lutherans who have embraced the Catholic Catechism and the teaching of the Magisterium. They are humbly knocking at the door of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith seeking a way into full communion. You can read about this amazing group here. I am working on a fuller story of their journey. Some have said that their smallness and placement on "the fringes" of the Lutheran community makes them less representative. I recall that those were the same comments made about the "Traditional Anglican Communion" in their early efforts. They became the prophetic vehicle the Holy Spirit used to open up an historic breakthrough.
To be Catholic is to enter into the prayer of Jesus for the Unity of His Church. In Pope Benedict XVI's first Papal message he signaled his commitment to this unity: "Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel encouraged to strive for the full unity for which Christ expressed so ardent a hope in the Upper Room. The Successor of Peter knows that he must make himself especially responsible for his Divine Master's supreme aspiration. Indeed, he is entrusted with the task of strengthening his brethren (cf. Lk 22: 32). With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty."
He has placed the commitment to the full communion of the Church at the forefront of his Papacy. This is evident in his love, respect and repeated overtures toward our Orthodox brethren, whom we recognize as a Church and whose priesthood and Sacraments we also recognize. However, this love is also evident in his outreach to the separated Christians of the Reformation communities of the West. On the 4th anniversary of the death of his predecessor, John Paul II, Pope Benedict reminded us of John Paul's passionate commitment to the full communion of the Church. That teaching is summarized in the Encyclical Letter "May they be One" (Ut Unum Sint).
The teaching of the Church is rooted in an ecclesiology of communion. John Paul II wrote: "It happens for example that, in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount, Christians of one confession no longer consider other Christians as enemies or strangers but see them as brothers and sisters. Again, the very expression "separated brethren" tends to be replaced today by expressions which more readily evoke the deep communion linked to the baptismal character which the Spirit fosters in spite of historical and canonical divisions. Today we speak of "other Christians", "others who have received Baptism", and "Christians of other Communities". The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism refers to the Communities to which these Christians belong as "Churches and Ecclesial Communities that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church. ...
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