From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
German Lutheran Bishops Criticize Catholics' Stance on
"Frank Imhoff" <FRANKI@elca.org>
Sat, 13 Mar 2004 16:18:16 -0600
German Lutheran Bishops Criticize Catholics' Stance on Pentecost Monday
Bavarian Bishop Johannes Friedrich Regrets Missed Chance to Send an
BUECKEBURG, Germany/GENEVA, 12 March 2004 (LWI) * The Bishops' Conference of
the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) has expressed great
disappointment at the response of the German Catholic Bishops' Conference to
a VELKD request to celebrate Whit Monday [Monday after Pentecost] as a
festival of Christian unity.
Following its March 6-9 meeting in Bueckeburg, the VELKD Bishops' Conference
pointed out that the proposal to hold joint services to celebrate church
unity originally came from the Central Committee of German Catholics. It was
mainly intended to send a signal to the many people living in
inter-confessional marriages and families.
"I sincerely regret the fact that the German Catholic bishops have missed
another chance to send an ecumenical signal," said Bavarian Bishop Dr
Johannes Friedrich, also responsible for VELKD's relations with the Roman
Catholic Church. In this capacity, he had forwarded the proposal to the
Catholic Bishops' Conference.
Friedrich criticized the reasons given for the rejection: "I cannot see how a
joint service on Pentecost Monday, as already celebrated by many Protestant
and Catholic congregations, could endanger the celebration of the Eucharist.
I have always stressed that a festival of Christian unity is intended to
supplement, not replace the Eucharist."
The proposal had clearly acknowledged that a decision about Pentecost Monday
should not call into question the eucharistic celebration on that day. The
VELKD Bishops' Conference said the negative decision by the Roman Catholic
bishops missed the point, as they had rejected a proposal that had not been
made. Pentecost Sunday also referred to as Whit Sunday, marks the 50th day
after Easter, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of Jesus
The Lutheran bishops deplored the decision by the Catholic bishops,
particularly because of what it could mean to people in inter-confessional
marriages and families. But they encouraged congregations and parishes where
ecumenical worship services were already conducted on Pentecost Monday to
maintain the tradition. The recent decision of the Catholic Bishops'
Conference still allowed for this possibility. The VELKD bishops encouraged
congregations that had not yet followed this tradition to hold ecumenical
services on the Monday after Pentecost as an expression of Protestant and
Catholic "being together."
The VELKD is an association of eight German regional churches * the
Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Bavaria, Brunswick, Hanover and Thuringia,
of Mecklenburg, Saxony, Schaumburg-Lippe and the North Elbian Evangelical
Lutheran Church. It represents approximately 10.4 million people, and is
headed by Presiding Dr Hans Christian Knuth of Schleswig.
Germany's 82 million people include an equal number of Protestants and Roman
Catholics, estimated at two-thirds of the population. (449 words)
[The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now has 136 member
churches in 76 countries representing 62.3 million of the almost 66 million
Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas
of common interest such as ecumenical and inter-faith relations, theology,
humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects
of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,
[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the LWF's information service. Unless
specifically noted, material presented does not represent positions or
opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where the dateline of an article
contains the notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with
* * *
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