Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification: A Significant Step Towards Christian Unity

Thursday, October 28 1999

Ottawa (CCCB) — A significant step towards the restoration of Christian unity will take place in Augsburg, Germany, on October 31, 1999 where after more than thirty years of intensive dialogue, representatives of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Vatican will sign the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

From a Roman Catholic perspective, the signing of the Joint Declaration is in keeping with Pope John Paul II’s hope, as expressed in his apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, that “we can celebrate the Great Jubilee, if not completely united, at least much closer to overcoming the divisions of the second millennium.” This is the first time that such a major ecumenical agreement is recognized officially and mutually received by the respective Church bodies.

Since the issue of justification was at the heart of the controversies that divided the Churches at the time of the Reformation, the approval of this Joint Declaration is in fact an historic achievement. The text states that the dialogue has reached “a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification” and that “the earlier mutual condemnations do not apply to the teaching of the dialogue partners as presented in the Joint Declaration.”

In the Joint Declaration, justification is defined as “the forgiveness of sins, liberation from the dominating power of sin and death . . . acceptance into communion with God”. Together, Lutherans and Catholics affirm: “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 good works.”

The two Churches are committed to continuing study of the biblical foundations of the doctrine of justification and to ongoing efforts in common witness to interpret the message of justification in language relevant for today’s society.

Lutheran and Roman Catholic congregations and parishes across Canada have been encouraged to foster awareness of the official signing, to celebrate the ecumenical achievement it represents, and to continue to pray for Christian unity. To assist in this process of reception, the CCCB and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada have jointly published a booklet of study resources on the Joint Declaration.

Copies of the booklet are available at:

CANADIAN CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS Publications Service 90 Parent Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B1 1-800-769-1147 1-613 241-7538 Fax (613) 241-5090

Augsburg Fortress Canada, 1-800-265-6397 (Kitchener); 1-800-661-8379 (Calgary).