Lutheran Pastor Leaving to Be a Catholic Priest

«New Page» in French Ecumenical Relations Foreseen

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PARIS, SEPT. 2, 2001 ( A former pastor and prominent member of the Lutheran Evangelical Church is preparing to be ordained a priest in the Catholic Church, an unprecedented event since the Reformation.

Michel Viot held key posts in the Lutheran Evangelical Church for three decades. He decided to join the Catholic Church when the Reformed Church in France decided to give communion to unbaptized people.

Decisions of the Reformed Church in France are also binding on the 218,000-member Lutheran Evangelical Church, given the theological agreements between the two denominations.

The decision to give unbaptized people access to communion was categorically criticized by Father Christian Foster, secretary of the Commission of Catholic Bishops for Christian Unity, who said it was against the Christian tradition and created a new obstacle to unity.

According to Le Monde newspaper, Viot´s decision has opened a «new page» in the ecumenical dialogue in France.

«The time is long past when, in the name of reconciliation, the churches did not dare to state their differences,» the Parisian paper said. «A new generation of leaders seems convinced that the language of clarity will certainly make unity progress more. This is the line defended by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in Rome, as well as among Protestants who now reaffirm their own theological line, free of complexes.»

«However,» Le Monde concluded, «this debate on the sacraments runs the risk of having consequences, especially at the heart of the Reformation Churches where, increasingly, those are being heard who consider that Protestantism is not responding as well as Catholicism to the need, evident as well in modern societies, for rites and the sacred.»

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