Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has opened the door to Lutheranorum Coetibus in a recent interview with ZENIT:
ZENIT: You are the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The dialogue with Protestants is, in fact, very important in Germany. In your opinion, what progress has been made recently in Germany and what can be expected concretely from the Synod?
Cardinal Koch: The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed in August of 1999 was undoubtedly a great step forward in the ecumenical dialogue with Lutherans. The task remaining now is to discuss the ecclesiological consequences of this Joint Declaration. What is clear, in fact, is that the Evangelicals [=Protestants here — LAH] have another understanding of the Church in regard to Catholic Christians. It’s not enough to recognize one another mutually as a Church. What is needed, rather, is a serious theological dialogue on what constitutes the essence of the Church.
ZENIT: Is a solution similar to the Anglicanorum coetibus for Anglicans possible for Evangelical Christians?
Cardinal Koch: Anglicanorum coetibus was not an initiative of Rome, but came from the Anglican Church. The Holy Father then sought a solution and, in my opinion, found a very broad solution, in which the Anglicans’ ecclesial and liturgical traditions were taken into ample consideration. If similar desires are expressed by the Lutherans, then we will have to reflect on them. However, the initiative is up to the Lutherans.
It’s hard to read too much into or behind Cardinal Koch’s comments, especially as he’s responding to a specific question. On the other hand, there has been talk of this here and there, and one has to think certain Lutherans have eyed Anglicanorum Coetibus with a degree of interest and hope.
Theologically, though, I wonder if it wasn’t easier to come up with an agreement with the Anglicans because Anglicans haven’t had a well-defined confessional theology. Lutherans have, whether they’re more liberal, pietist, or orthodox in a given congregation or era. I suppose if Catholics and Lutherans willing to be in union with Rome can accept the 1999 Declaration on Justification, then the sides can also come up with an understanding of Holy Communion as a sacrifice. In some ways, Lutherans are closest to Catholics in spirit and (thanks to common roots in Augustine) in theology, especially when one reads the Lutheran confessional statements of the 1500s, but in other ways, worlds apart.
In any event, Pope Benedict is the Pope of Christian unity.