The former Carthusian Monastery (Cartuja Aula Dei) in Zaragoza, Spain, hosted a week of Ecumenical Studies from 10 to 17 November 2019. Every week since 2013, this week, in response to a request from the Communauté du Chemin Neuf, has been carried out by the Strasbourg Institute in conjunction with the diocese of this city. This year, commemorating the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification 20 years ago, focused on the doctrine of salvation, which is today the focal point of foundational consensus.
For the 53 participants who attended the course, this was new territory. Apart from some Protestant and Anglican Christians, all came from predominantly Catholic countries and so far had not been made aware of the Joint Declaration. The daily four-hour lectures in French by the Strasbourg Institute’s Prof. Dr. André Birmelé, with simultaneous translation into Spanish, Italian, English, and Polish, were embedded in a lively spiritual life praying the hours. Many personal conversations accompanied these days and helped to dispel many old misconceptions.
Particularly impressive was the Lutheran holy communion service, which was headed by a Lutheran pastor. In spite of some plenary discussions in which the lasting differences between our churches became clear, of the approximately one hundred worshipers, 80 came to communion. This fact, which is still unthinkable in many countries of northern Europe, is a development in the European Latin world, as well as in many countries of the Global South, which is increasing from year to year. The relation of ecclesiastical doctrine and spiritual life among the faithful is changing and urgently needs a closer study by ecumenical theology.
The church in Zaragoza is strongly influenced by the Opus Dei movement. The University of Navarre, located in nearby Pamplona, is one of the most important places for this Catholic community. So it is all the more gratifying that the theological faculty of Pamplona now wants to invite Lutheran and Reformed theologians to a consultation to take place in the next year or two. The question of church office is the expected topic of discussion.