VATICAN CITY, NOV. 2, 2009 ( Benedict XVI marked the 10th anniversary of a Catholic-Lutheran agreement on justification, saying he hopes the event will aid progress on the path toward full and visible Christian unity.

The Pope reflected Sunday on the agreement after praying the midday Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The agreement was signed Oct. 31, 1999, by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation. Methodists joined the agreement in 2006.

"This document certified a consensus between Lutherans and Catholics on fundamental truths of the doctrine of justification, truths that take us to the very heart of the Gospel and to essential questions of our life," the Holy Father observed.

He went on to reflect: "We are received and redeemed by God; our existence is inscribed on the horizon of grace, it is guided by a merciful God, who forgives our sin and calls us to a new life following his Son; we live from the grace of God and we are called to respond to his gift; all this liberates us from fear and infuses hope and courage in us in a world full of uncertainty, anxiety and suffering."


The Pontiff noted how his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, called the day of the signing a "milestone in the difficult path to reconstitute full unity among Christians."

"This anniversary, therefore, is an occasion to recall the truth about man's justification, testified together, to come together in ecumenical celebrations and to reflect further on this and other topics that are the object of the ecumenical dialogue," Benedict XVI affirmed. "It is my heartfelt hope that this important anniversary will contribute to make us progress on the path toward the full and visible unity of all the disciples of Christ."

The joint declaration, while it does not clarify every point of discord between Catholic and Protestant understandings (merit and indulgences are not addressed, for example), expresses a joint confession: "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."

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