"During the meeting, Archbishop Barsamian expressed the sadness of the Catholicos at having to ask the Holy Father to postpone his visit to Armenia because of the worsening condition of the Patriarch's health," Navarro-Valls said.
The Patriarch, who is 67 years old, is suffering from throat cancer. Recently he underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his larynx.
John Paul II has done everything in his power to make the trip possible, as it is of decisive importance to the ecumenical dialogue among Christians. Now it all hinges on the Patriarch's health. In 1996 the Catholic and Armenian Churches signed a theological agreement which put an end to 1500 years of differences on essential aspects regarding the person of Christ. ZE99061104
During a press conference in Geneva, Cardinal Edward Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Rev. Ishmael Noko, secretary general of the LWF, presented a common statement of the Catholic Church and the LWF on this topic, clearing up lingering questions from last year's "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification," which had not achieved final approval on the Catholic side. (Cf. http://www.zenit.org/english/archive/9806/zw980628.html)
The common statement will be signed on October 30-31 in Augsburg, Germany. This recalls the date on which Martin Luther traditionally nailed his 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517, marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
The document includes an additional text, an Annex clarifying the Church's understanding of the terms and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, prepared last year by the mixed commission for dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans.
In virtue of the new consensus, the LWF and the Catholic Church declare jointly, "The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations of the Council of Trent." Simultaneously, it states, "The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration."
Nonetheless, there remains a need for a "continued and deepened study of the Biblical foundations of the doctrine of justification," because this aspect did "not seem to have been given sufficient attention in the Joint Declaration," Cardinal Cassidy stated.
In order to reach full communion between the two Churches on this matter, some aspects of the declaration would have to be clarified, as well as other topics which have yet to be studied on the matter. "We do not claim agreement on all issues related to the doctrine of justification," Rev. Noko said. "Nevertheless, we have reached consensus on the principal points."
Cardinal Cassidy explained that the common statement and its annex have been approved by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose prefect is Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Late this May, John Paul II also approved the signing of the Declaration, to be carried out jointly with the LWF. ZE99061106
The seminar is very close to John Paul II's heart. On May 23 he mentioned the extraordinary meeting of the movements that took place on the Vigil of Pentecost in 1998. The Holy Father believes that these new organizations "are a real gift of the Spirit for the Church at the end of the millennium, and one of the new signs emanating from Vatican Council II."
Recalling that meeting of communities and movements, in which 250,000 people participated in Saint Peter's Square, the Pope described it as an event "that has produced precious fruits."
He added: "In fact, initiatives have multiplied to promote the sense of communion in the movements and communities, in the hope that cooperation will increase among them, as well as in the heart of local churches and parishes."
John Paul II said the Bishops' seminar, scheduled for next week, "will contribute to foster further developments."
The seminar will include Bishops invited by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The schedule allows for two sessions of frank and open discussions. On June 16 in the afternoon, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger will be available to answer the many questions the movements have evoked in some dioceses.
On June 18 in the morning, Gerald Arbola of the Emmanuel Community, Kiko Arguello of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, Chiara Lubich of the Focolare Movement, Salvatore Martinez of Renewal in the Spirit, Bishop Luigi Giussani of Communion and Liberation, and Andrea Riccardi of the Saint Egidio Community, will answer the Bishops' questions.
Professor Guzman Carriquiry, under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and spokesman for the seminar, told ZENIT that "this meeting will focus on the relation between the Bishops and the movements. Given the dramatic challenges that must be faced at the dawn of the third millennium, it is very important that the Bishops' pastoral awareness overcome existing resistance, prejudices and difficulties."
It is a very important meeting, as it is not easy to bring together more than 100 bishops outside of a Synod. Among the participants, there are many representatives from Latin America, including the Archbishops of Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Sao Paulo, Asuncion, as well as bishops from Peru, Mexico and Colombia. North America will be represented by Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston and Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark, as well as by Canadian bishops. There will also be several African bishops, about ten Asian bishops, and many from Eastern Europe including Russia, Byelorussia, Ukraine and Siberia. The Middle East will send several bishops of the Eastern rite from Lebanon and Egypt, as well as the Archbishops of Tripoli and Tunis. Many are coming to request the presence of these movements in their dioceses.
According to Carriquiry, the movements and new communities must help the Church face the present important challenges, including "the proposal of sanctity, through an encounter with Christ in a secularized and de-Christianized world," and "the building of ways of life that are more worthy of man in light of the civilization of love." ZE99061101
The new manual, which replaces an earlier 1992 manual, takes effect on July 1 and covers laity and clergy alike. Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano in the introduction to the manual reportedly said Pope John Paul II approved the manual in April.
Among the regulations in the manual, priests are required to wear cassocks and laity dress decorously and employees must live according to Christian morality, avoid joining groups incompatible with the Christian faith, and not seek compensation for performing official duties. They are also bound by pledges to "maintain secrecy on each official act," according to the media reports.
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