An international Lutheran-Roman Catholic theological commission has concluded that differing interpretations of the presence of Christ in the eucharist "must no longer be regarded as divisive" between the two faith groups.

This is one of the points made in a statement on the eucharist prepared by the commission. An official German text has been released by the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A.

"Roman Catholic and Lutheran Christians together confess the real and true presence of the Lord in the eucharist," the English translation says. "There are differences, however, in theological statements on the mode and therefore duration of the real presence . . . These two positions must no longer be regarded as divisive contradictions."

To overcome the discrepancy in understanding about the duration of the presence the document advises, "it would be good for Catholics to remember, particularly in catechism and preaching, that the original intention in preserving the eucharistic gifts was to distribute them to the Lutherans to adopt the best possible mode in order to show the eucharistic elements the respect they deserve, i.e. they should be preserved for subsequent reception including use in the communion for the ill."

The document declares that "we can thankfully record a showing convergence on many questions which have until now been difficulties in our discussions."

It notes that "there is a consensus between the Catholic and Lutheran concepts" regarding the role of faith in the effectiveness of the sacraments, and that differences between the Lutheran and Catholic concept and practice "are being overcome more and more today by new developments" related to the role of preaching at the eucharist.

What needs to be clarified now, the commission comments, "is the importance and ecclesiological ordering of the ministry, and what consequences it has fore the structure of the church." A study of the ordained ministry, particularly the ministry of bishops, will be the next major project of the international commission.