German Lutheran Theologian Ready to Recognize the Bishop of Rome

Pray Tell has already posted on the tantalizing comments of Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict) about a possible real but imperfect validity in Lutheran orders and sacraments.

Here is an ecumenical impulse from the other direction – a German Lutheran theologian who is ready to recognize the Bishop of Rome.

German Lutheran Theologian Friedrich Schorlemmer, who was active in the nonviolent demonstrations and civil rights movement before the fall of the Berlin Wall, recently spoke about ecumenical relations with the Catholic Church The occasion was the release of his book Luther in Leipzig, Deutschlandradio Kultur reports.

Schorlemmer sees great overlap between the attitude of Pope Francis and of himself. One must make the most of every day this pope is with us, he said,

“and this as representative of the universal church, to which I also belong.”

He would have no problem whatsoever recognizing Pope Francis as Bishop of Rome.

He said:

When I see what Pope Francis says and does, and how what he does speaks, I can only say, if I were asked whether I would recognize him as my Bishop of Rome: But of course!

He called for a “large ecumenical council.” But this must apply itself to the problems of today that are to be resolved, rather than preoccupying itself with battles of the 16th century.

Schorlemme called for a sort of “reconciled diversity” between Catholics and Lutherans, and added:

“The very least that we must achieve in this year is that we have eucharistic readiness for hospitality [eucharistische Gastbereitschaft], so that each individual decides whether to go to the the Lord’s Supper in the Lutheran church, or also to go to Mass.”



  1. I think that Catholics should be proud that Francis can bring this sort of open-hearted response from Lutherans and others. “Reconciled diversity” is a wonderful notion. The unimaginable coming into existence like a breeze is a mark of the Spirit.

    But I can already hear: the details! the details!

  2. Do the “official” dialogues continue between Catholic and Lutheran theologians? I have not heard news of them for quite some time, but I’d be surprised if this is not something Francis would wish to pursue. Of course, the reality of ecumenism at the grass roots is another thing entirely. Goodness knows, shared communion would not be an innovation for quite a few folks.

  3. Yes, the US and international Catholic-Lutheran dialogues still exist (I am a Catholic member of the US dialogue). A problem afflicting all dialogues is the tendency toward ever longer texts and thus longer and longer periods of time between the release of the texts. Many forget they are there.
    The term “unity in reconciled diversity” was introduced in the 1970s (especially by some Lutherans) as an alternative to the organic unity (which usually meant merger) model of the World Council of Churches. Churches would remain organizationally distinct while living in full communion. The idea has its obvious attractiveness, for Catholics also, but it has devolved into declaring full communion, but with no means of common decision making. It declares communion, but leaves division practically in place. A history of the discussion through the late 1990s can be found in Harding Meyer, “That All May Be One: Perceptions and Models of Ecumenicity: (Eerdmans).

  4. Pope Benedict referred to marriages between people of differing Christian traditions as “laboratories” for Christian unity. It would seem we need such “scientists” and “researchers” to add to any authentic and “orthodox” discussion on unity.

  5. Michael Root, many thanks for that comment. And blessings upon you and the other “dialoguers!”

  6. And if the successor of pope Francesco would be a reactionary: Will Mr. Schorlemmer be ready to recognize also the new pope?

  7. It has always been an enigma for me that Eucharistic as the Sacrament expressive of unity is not allowed to become the agent of unity but a wall which actively undermines unity. For Catholics, Eucharist is a source of division because we exclude all others from sharing this. What are the most afraid of? That the deity is at risk?

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