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Reformed Churches join Catholics and Lutherans on the Doctrine of Justification

This is the Joint Declaration regarding the Doctrine of Justification that Ratzinger played such a large role in during the late 90s. It came about as a step toward Christian Unity nearly 500 years after the division from the Reformation in the sixteenth century. 

It was originally signed by Catholics and Lutherans signifying “a common understanding of justification by God's grace through faith in Christ.” Now, the World Communion of Reformed Churches also has recently joined by signing this document in Germany, becoming the forth Church to pledge their agreement that Christians of all denominations have more in common than the initial question that separated them in the beginning: faith or works.  

BRIAN FARRELL Pontifical Council for Christian Unity

“We now have a situation where on the fundamental question that separated us in the sixteenth century, which was Catholics insisted on good works as a sign of faith, as necessary for salvation, and Protestants said no, no, no, it's only the grace of Christ.

We have the same substantial understanding of what it is that happens when Christ saves the sinner. This is the whole point. So we have a very central point of our faith that we thought we disagreed on but now we realize that in the substance, we agree.”

With this understanding comes a basis on which the Churches can build a deeper relationship and help one another share the Gospel. 

After the Lutherans and Catholics signed the document in 1999, the Methodists joined in 2006. This year will see two Churches sign, starting now with the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Anglican Church will also do so in October 2017.  

BRIAN FARRELL Pontifical Council for Christian Unity

“As you can see there is a very important growth in communion about the substantial question of how Christ saves us. It's very important.

It means we can no longer think of each other as separated and distant. We are now in a position to work together and work more closely and to help each other to preach the Gospel because we have so much in common that we didn't realize before that we had so much.”

By October, all of the main historical Christian Churches of the West, who were involved in the divide, will be in agreement on this issue. Bishop Farrell says it is a big step toward potential unity, because it establishes a basis on which to build something more, leading to further collaboration in the future.