Another example of how ecumenical progress has been ignored in Northern Ireland

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

Regarding Pope Francis’ possible visit to Northern Ireland, the News Letter reports Presbyterian minister Rev Ian Brown of the Martyrs’ Memorial Church as stating because the Pope is “no closer to proclaiming the one true biblical Gospel – that salvation is by faith alone through Christ alone’ than the Catholic church of Martin Luther’s day… the only proper response to his high publicity visit is a solid protest.”

(Free Presbyterians ‘will protest’ Pope’s visit. November 29).

Here is another sad example of how historic ecumenical progress has been ignored in Northern Ireland. Indeed, a few weeks ago, I lamented the fact that the media in Ireland, North and South, had under-reported the wonderful agreement the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation have reached on the Doctrine of Justification (Joint Declaration on Justification October 1991 in Augsburg, Germany).

The Joint Declaration (with its Official Common Statement and Annex) formally and authoritatively declares that the teaching of the Lutheran Church in the Joint Declaration does not come under the condemnations of Council of Trent (1545-63) and that Catholic teaching on Justification does not fall under the condemnations of the Lutheran Confessions (1580).

In other words, the mutual condemnations of the past on Justification no longer apply.

And as recent as Reformation Sunday (October 30) Pope Francis travelled to Sweden to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, and to reaffirm with the Lutheran World Federation this wonderful Holy Spirit-led ecumenical progress.

How can Reverend Brown act as if this Joint Declaration on Justification does not exist, even while speaking of the Church “of Martin Luther’s day”?

Surely, the Lutheran World Federation knows a thing or two about the great Martin Luther? And, surely, the Vatican (which co-signed the Joint Declaration on Justification with the Lutheran World Federation) knows a thing or two about basic Catholic doctrine?

Surely in Northern Ireland, of all places on earth, there should be an outpouring of support for the Catholic and Lutheran Churches exorcising the demons of old religious bigotry, intolerance and disrespect? These demons terribly wounded the Body of Christ, needlessly distorting mutual faith in the central truth of Christianity: we are sinners saved by God’s unmerited grace, in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Please let Reverend Brown say, ‘AMEN’ to this.

Fr Sean Mc Manus, President Irish National Caucus

Rev Brown: We bear no ill will towards our RC neighbours