Indeed, the doctrine of justification has been dealt with in the theological dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Reformed Federation, as well as in the Anglican International Roman Catholic Commission. But nowhere else have the results of the dialogue on this subject been submitted to official reception, as in this case. “Although Luther speaks in some places of an inner change in the human person, he more often describes this process of justification than any real change in human nature. Sinful nature remains, but now covered by the righteousness that Christ gained and proclaimed through Scripture. Over time, the terms forensic or extraterrestrial justification are used to describe this condition. Thus, Luther can call the human person “justifiable and at the same time sinful.” Once this basic condition is created, one could speak of the process of personal sanctification and sacramental life. Unlike the more abstract argumentation of scholastic theology, this approach is more existential and consistent with Luther`s personal experience of God`s action in his life. “ The joint statement itself raises a number of questions for us that await our common attention.” These include the relationship between the Word of God and ecclesial doctrine, as well as ecclesiology, authority in the Church, ministry, the sacraments and the relationship between justification and ethics” (Joint Declaration, 43). The dialogue is indeed continuing. It set as its stated goal, as stated in Official Joint Statement No.
3, “to achieve full ecclesial communion, a unity in diversity where the remaining differences are `reconciled` and no longer have the force of division.” This recognition of our common goal is in itself an important ecumenical commitment. “1. On the basis of the agreements reached in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, the Lutheran World Union and the Catholic Church declare together: “The understanding of the doctrine of justification, as set out in this Declaration, shows that there is a consensus between Lutherans and Catholics in fundamental truths of the doctrine of justification” (Joint Declaration, n. 40). On the basis of this consensus, the Lutheran World Union and the Catholic Church declare together: “The doctrine of the Lutheran Churches, set out in this declaration, does not fall within the condemnations of the Council of Trent. The condemnations pronounced in the Lutheran confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church set forth in this declaration” (Joint Declaration, 41). Together, we can now proclaim to the world the same good news of justification by faith in Christ. As I said in July 1997 before the General Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation in Hong Kong, point 3 of the annex briefly refers to the question of the doctrine of justification as a measure or touchstone of the Christian faith. All that is added here to what is written in the joint statement is the statement that “as such it has its truth and specific meaning in the overall context of the Church`s fundamental profession of Trinitarian faith.” This is reminiscent of No. 18 of the Joint Declaration, in which it is stated: “We share the goal of confessing Christ in all things, to whom it is necessary above all to confess as the only mediator (1 Um 2:5-6), by which God gives himself in the Holy Spirit and sheds his renewed gifts.
The path was not easy, first to the joint declaration and then to the signing of the official joint declaration which she confirmed….