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An Honest Bishop

July 31st, 2007
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Lithuanian Lutheran bishop praises Pope Benedict’s ‘consistency’
ENI-07-0593

By Ruta Tumenaite
Vilnius,
31 July (ENI)–Although several Protestant churches and organizations
have expressed dismay at a recent Vatican document on the identity of
the Church, the leader of Lithuania’s Lutheran church has said he
believes the statement will not significantly harm ecumenical relations.

"We
think this is an internal Vatican document that has no direct influence
on us. Of course, every church teaches its faithful the basics of
faith, and we are sure that this was teaching of this sort," said
Mindaugas Sabutis, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
Lithuania.

On 10 July, the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith published "Responses to Some Questions
Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church". Pope Benedict
XVI approved the document, which reaffirmed the Vatican’s stance that
the Catholic Church is the one, true church of Christ.

Speaking to the Lithuanian online daily news Web site www.lrytas.lt, Bishop Sabutis said the Pope is a highly respected figure because of his openness and consistency in ecumenical matters.

"I think it is always better to express theological opinions openly, without hidden things left," the bishop said.

"The
late Pope John Paul II used to embarrass a little by praying together
with the representatives of almost all religions. For instance, just a
few months after signing a joint Catholic-Lutheran declaration on
justification, there came a papal encyclical, which sort of wiped
everything away," Sabutis added.

Speaking about the possible
impact of the Vatican’s document on Catholic-Lutheran relations, Bishop
Sabutis said everything would depend on the local situations and the
way Catholic bishops and other Christian churches treated the document.

Sabutis
said he believed the document would not harm Catholic-Lutheran
relations in Lithuania, which he described as "the best in the last 450
years".

The Lutheran Church in Lithuania lost almost 90 percent
of its members in the Second World War and during severe persecution
under the Soviet regime. Since the restoration of Lithuania’s
independence in 1990, the church has slowly recovered and now has about
21 000 members in 54 parishes. Protestants make up almost 2 percent of
Lithuania’s 3.5 million people. [362 words]

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