Pope John Paul II and Bishop Christian Krause, president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), praised on Thursday a recent theological agreement between the Vatican and the LWF.

Speaking at their first meeting since the signing in Augsburg of the joint declaration on the doctrine of justification, Bishop Krause described the agreement as a "sign of hope." He called for further steps towards unity, including reciprocal Eucharistic hospitality between the two traditions.

Pope John Paul said that the joint declaration was an important step towards the recovery of full Christian unity.

The declaration signed in Augsburg announced that there was between Lutherans and Roman Catholics a "consensus in basic truths" on the doctrine of justification, one of the main points at issue between the two traditions since the time of the Reformation.

"We hope that even where we have not yet reached a consensus we will be able to make progress and develop a common basis of understanding," Bishop Krause, from Brunswick, Germany, said, in a statement released after the meeting by the Lutheran World Information press service.

"We mustn't let go of the hands that reached out to each other in Augsburg," Bishop Krause added. "What unites us is stronger than what divides us."

He also expressed a wish to see the two communions recognize each other as "sister churches," as part of a "unity in reconciled diversity." He said he wanted Lutherans and Roman Catholics to have the possibility of sharing in "the mutual hospitality in the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper."

The question of the sharing of the Eucharist is, from the Vatican side at least, extremely complex, and is complicated by the fact that many Lutheran churches ordain women, and several have women ...

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