The Lutheran delegation was led by the ELCA’s Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who is also President of the Lutheran World Foundation, the global Lutheran partner to the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council.
The Holy Father addressed the delegation in English, saying that he hoped “the continuing Lutheran-Catholic dialogue both in the United States of America and at the international level will help to build upon the agreements reached so far.”
One such agreement is a joint declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation on October 31, 1999. It was the product of nearly 35 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in the United States and abroad.
The Pope the noted that an important additional task “will be to harvest the results of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue that so promisingly started after the Vatican Council II.” In order to continue “what has been achieved together since that time, he encouraged Lutherans and Catholics toward “ardent prayer” and “conversion to Christ, the source of grace and truth” in order to build a “spiritual ecumenism.”
“May the Lord help us to treasure what has been accomplished so far, to guard it with care, and to foster its development," the Pope prayed. The Holy Father concluded by echoing his predecessor, John Paul II’s words while addressing a similar Lutheran delegation in 1985: “Let us rejoice that an encounter such as this can take place. Let us resolve to be open to the Lord so that He can use this meeting for His purposes, to bring about the unity that He desires. Thank you for the efforts you are making for full unity in faith and charity.”