“Baptised Together in Christ” is the title of a joint statement by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church of New Zealand which recognizes the unity of each other’s baptisms. New Zealand’s Bishops Conference underscored that it is a particularly useful document for families who wish to baptize children when one of the parents is a member of another confession. It is also the first great objective achieved by the Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue Commission. Established in 2017 on the initiative of Lutheran Bishop Mark Whitfield and Cardinal John Atcherley Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, when Martin Luther published his 95 theses in Wittenberg, Germany, throughout these years the Commission has met regularly to meet the needs of the Christian faithful. According to a recent census, Christians account for 47% of the population of New Zealand which numbers 5 million, 12.6% of whom are Catholic, 11.8% Anglican and 8.5% Presbyterian. There are 800 people baptized as Lutherans in New Zealand. “This statement honours our commitment to seek the unity that draws us together, to be transformed by our encounter with one another, and to promote further expressions of our unity across our churches”, said Cardinal Dew. The same concept was echoed by Bishop Whitfield, who noted that “Catholic and Lutheran baptismal rites have much in common, and this work is a welcome opportunity to learn from each other’s practices”. It is important to remember, the joint statement says, “that baptism is a sacramental gift of God, instituted by the command of Jesus Christ”.
It is a significant step forward in the direction of an ever closer cooperation and closeness with the objective of reciprocity because, as the document states, the two Churches “can learn from one another and speak with a common voice on issues of concern in modern society, with the conviction that they share one baptism and one faith”, while still respecting the existing differences between the two confessions. “Catholics and Lutherans both assert that through baptism a person becomes a member of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”. The statement further explains that a parent couple that includes both a Catholic and a Lutheran partner is “encouraged to bring their child for baptism in the Church of their choice. They may seek to have both of their pastors/priests participate in the baptismal service”. In this way, it concludes, “Christians are encouraged to speak of being baptised into the Christian Church, into the Christian faith, or into Christ. They may say that they were baptised in the Catholic or Lutheran Church but are discouraged from saying that they have been baptised Catholic or baptised Lutheran”. ( rosario capomasi )