The controversial Vatican document, Dominus Iesus, has strengthened the ecumenical commitment of many German Catholics, according to Maria Jepsen, the Lutheran bishop of Hamburg in the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church, who said that many Roman Catholics and Protestants in her country took communion together.
Bishop Jepsen, who became the world’s first woman Lutheran bishop in 1992, was speaking in Rome last weekend, during a visit to Rome’s Lutheran community.
She is believed to be the first female bishop to speak publicly in Rome.
The city’s Lutheran pastor, Hans-Michael Uhl, told a gathering of Lutherans here that in inviting a woman bishop to speak, the community was not trying to “provoke” a reaction, but simply wanted to explain “the structure of the German Lutheran church and its way of functioning.” (The Vatican opposes the ordination of women, and Pope John Paul has declared that the Catholic church will never admit women to the priesthood.)
In her speech to Rome’s Lutherans, Bishop Jepsen talked about her theological studies, her decision to ask for ordination, her 18 years of ministry in a rural community and the initial “troubles” and then “serenity” that followed her election as bishop.
She said that her ministry as a pastor and then bishop had been “a great blessing”, but she added that it had not been “without problems, because of certain sexist attitudes which are difficult to change.”