Statement for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and a Delegation of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Author: PCCU and Presbyterian Delegates


Since the Second Vatican Council, there have been international and national dialogues involving Christians of the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition, including the Presbyterian Church (USA) with the Catholic Church. In this context and in specific response to the gracious invitation of Pope John Paul II to engage in a fraternal dialogue on the forms in which his ministry of unity "may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned" (Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n. 95), the Presbyterian Church (USA) developed a paper entitled "The Successor to Peter". A first discussion of this took place when Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, then President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, visited the PCUSA headquarters in Louisville, USA, on 7-8 December 2000. The discussion continued with the new President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, when the PCUSA delegation visited Rome from 18 to 23 March 2001.

In the course of these discussions various aspects of the Petrine ministry were examined, including primacy and collegiality, which led us to broader questions of ecclesiology. From this discussion and other dialogues, we find that there are many aspects of faith and practice which we share in common, such as belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Redeemer, and in the Trinity. We have also faced, with candour, the differences which still remain, among others, in our understanding of the nature of the Church and the locus of its authority, the often negative judgements made against one another in history and, particularly, the differences in our understanding and practice of episcopé.

We agree that the contemporary ecumenical spirit is part of a new situation which enables us to address in new ways the issues which have separated us.

Among the opportunities for further exploration, at either the international or national levels, we suggest the following:

— the possibility of Reformed participation in the ecumenical consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification, building on the recent Catholic-Lutheran agreement;

— the possibility, at the appropriate level, of reaching a mutual recognition of the sacrament of baptism;

— the continuing study together of the events in the 16th and 17th centuries which led to our divisions. In this context, we hope that it may become possible to declare that the pejorative statements made against one another in the past are not in keeping with our views of each other today.

On Monday, 19 March, the delegation attended the service at St Peter's Basilica during which Pope John Paul II ordained nine new Bishops. The meetingsat the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on 20 and 21 March began with prayer and were characterized by a warm spirit of open sharing. On 22 March the delegation was received by Pope John Paul II in a private audience.

We give thanks to God for the gift of grace which has blessed our time together, and we look for the continuing guidance of the Holy Spirit as we work on these tasks, trusting that Presbyterians and Catholics may move to further areas of reconciliation and sharing in faith and witness.

Participants included the following:

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Delegation members

Rev. Dr Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly/Head of Communion
Rev. Robina Winbush, Director of Ecumenical and Agency Relations (Ecumenical Officer)
Mr John Detterick, Director, General Assembly Council
Rev. Dr Marian McClure, Director of World Wide Ministries Division
Rev. Anthony Aja, Associate Director for People in Mission, World Wide Ministries Division
Rev. Dr Anna Case-Winters, McCormick Theological Seminary Professor of Systematic Theology
Rev. Dr Lewis Mudge, Retired Seminary Professor
Rev. Dr John Niles Bartholomew, Chair of the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical Relations
Rev. Eugene Turner, Retired Ecumenical Officer
Ms Ashley Seaman, Seminarian
Mr Lee Iverson, Mission Co-Worker
Rev. Dr Joseph D. Small, Coordinator of Theology and Worship, Congregational Ministries Division
Mr Vanable Moody, Seminarian
Rev. Martha Murchison, Participant in Reformed/Catholic Dialogue (U. S. Conference)
Rev. John Buchanan, Pastor

Ecumenical observers

Rev. Douglas W. Fromm, Ecumenical Officer, Reformed Church in America
Rev. Dr Lowell G. Almen, Secretary, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Dr Randall R. Lee, Executive Assistant to the Secretary, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Rev. Jerry VanMarter
Mr David Young

Participants from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, besides Cardinal WalterKasper, included staff members Mons. John Mutiso-Mbinda, Rev. Remi Hoeckman, O.P., Rev. Juan F. Usma Gómez and Mons. John A. Radano.

Rome, 22 March 2001.  

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
4 April 2001, page 8

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