Lutherans bristle at suggestion of joining Catholic ChurchBy Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor
PARIS (Reuters) - Two leading Lutheran clerics have rejected suggestions from the Vatican that it could create a subdivision for converted Lutherans similar to its structures for Anglicans who join the Roman Catholic Church.
The dispute, concerning tiny numbers of believers but major issues in ecumenical relations, comes as the churches mark the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this week.
Rev Martin Junge, the Chilean-born secretary general of the World Lutheran Federation (WLF), said in a statement that the suggestion caused great concern and would "send wrong signals to LWF member churches around the world."
Bishop Friedrich Weber, the German Lutheran liaison with the Catholic Church, said the idea was unthinkable and amounted to "an unecumenical incitement to switch sides."
The Vatican announced special structures for disaffected Anglicans in 2009, creating a so-called ordinariate so conservatives opposed to female and homosexual bishops could become Catholic while retaining some of their traditions.
Several thousand Anglicans, including dozens of priests and a few bishops, have joined ordinariates established in England, Australia and Canada. Married clergy are exempted from the obligatory celibacy of the Catholic priesthood.
Relations among Christian churches have improved greatly since the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council and most now see each other more as partners than as competitors. A Catholic bishop attended an ecumenical service Weber celebrated last Sunday.
But this Vatican welcome has raised suspicions among some Protestants that the huge Catholic Church, which makes up half the world's 2.2 billion Christians, now wants to woo away believers from smaller churches torn by internal debate.