An international expert on church unity has urged the Roman Catholic Church to declare officially that its excommunication of Martin Luther no longer applies, reports Ecumenical News International.

Such a statement, “in these ecumenically less exciting times … would be a remarkable step and a sign of hope and encouragement”, said the Rev. Günther Gassmann, a German Lutheran theologian, who was director of the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order Commission from 1984 to 1995. He said that a joint Lutheran-Catholic statement published in 1983 to mark the 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth had sought to elaborate a common position on the work and legacy of the reformer.

“Luther, a major symbol and personification during 400 years of the past Catholic-Lutheran conflict and division, is now seen as a common teacher,” Gassmann noted.

Report from the Christian Telegraph


Controversial Australian priest Fr. Peter Dresser, of Coonamble in the Diocese of Bathurst, has published a booklet where he insists that Jesus was not God, and did not think he was God, and also claims that the Blessed Virgin Mary had as many as six children, Joseph was the father of Jesus, and the bodily Resurrection is not to be taken literally, reports Thaddeus M. Baklinski,

In his booklet titled “God is Big. Real Big!” Fr. Dresser says, “This whole matter regarding Jesus being God … not only does violence to my own intelligence, but must be a sticking point for millions of people trying to make some kind of sense of the Christian religion … No human being can ever be God, and Jesus was a human being. It is as simple as that.”

Fr. Dresser’s restatement of the old Arian heresy that denies the divinity of Christ has elicited a comment from Fr. Anthony Robbie, who has degrees in Arts and Law from Sydney University and in Theology from the Catholic Institute of Sydney as well as a Licentiate in Ecclesiastical History from the Gregorian University in Rome.

Fr. Robbie told The Australian that Fr. Dresser’s claims defied all scriptural evidence.

“What a breathtaking know-all, to claim he knows the mind of Christ contrary to scripture and tradition. His words rob Christianity entirely of its meaning and purpose,” Father Robbie said.

“The Council of Nicaea settled the question that Christ was God in 325, so he is 1700 years out of date. The rest is a regurgitation of every discredited 19th-century liberal Protestant German cliche in the book.”

Canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters, JD, JCD, offered his thoughts on Fr. Dresser and the dissident church in Australia in his blog.

“The more modernistic the liberal clerical cohort in Australia tries to become, the older are the heresies that they promote. Lately, one Fr Peter Dresser is promoting his own brand of Arianism, a heresy that basically denied the divinity of Christ, and which was solemnly rejected by the Council of Nicaea (325). “No human being can ever be God,” writes Fr. Dresser in a booklet distributed to the faithful, “and Jesus was a human being. It is as simple as that.”

“Okay, here’s my version of simple: “No Catholic priest may deny the divinity of Christ, and Dresser is a Catholic priest. It’s as simple as that.” If Fr. Dresser really denies the divinity of Christ (among several other things!), declare his formal excommunication and expel him from the clerical state. Do it quickly, do it cleanly, and do it without rancor. But do it,” write Fr. Peters.

Report from the Christian Telegraph


There is no proof of charges, defense asserts; forgiveness offered to accuser.

ISTANBUL, July 18 (Compass Direct News) – Three Algerian Christians fighting a blasphemy sentence arrived at court in northwestern Algeria on Tuesday (July 15) to find that their hearing was postponed until October 21 because the presiding judge was on vacation.

Rachid Muhammad Essaghir, Youssef Ourahmane and a third man were charged in February with “blaspheming the name of the Prophet [Muhammad] and Islam” and threatening the life of a man who claimed to have converted to Christianity but who “returned” to Islam when his Islamic fundamentalist ties were exposed.

The three are just a few of the Christians under legal heat in a wave of trials this year against Algerian Christians on religion-based charges. In most cases the Christians have been charged under a presidential decree from February 2006 that restricts religious worship to government approved buildings. The decree, known as Ordinance 06-03, also outlaws any attempt to convert Muslims to another faith.

The international community has been vocal about the Algerian government’s stance toward Christians. More recently, on June 6, some 30 U.S. congressmen sent a letter to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika addressing the violations of human rights against Christians in Algeria and their concern toward the 2006 Decree on non-Muslim worship that has resulted in the closures of churches and criminal charges against Christians.

Essaghir, an evangelist and church elder for a small community of Muslim converts to Christianity in Tiaret, has been one of the most targeted Christians in Algeria. In the last year he has received three sentences; one for blasphemy and two for evangelism. He and the other two Christians were handed a three-year suspended sentence along with a 500-euro fine each.

The convert and plaintiff, Shamouma Al-Aid, had professed Christianity from July 2004 through July 2006 when he attended a church near Oran city. It was there that he met the Christians, against whom he later filed the blasphemy complaint.

When the three accused Christians met Al-Aid, he claimed that his family and especially his older brother were persecuting him.

“We believed him and took him in,” said Ourahmane. “We took care of him; we helped him to do his baccalaureate.”

But in 2006 the Christians learned that Al-Aid in fact had links with Islamic fundamentalists.

“He was in touch with fanatics while with us. He used us to get money and information,” said Ourahmane.

After excommunicating Al-Aid, in October 2007 the three Christians were summoned by police, and Al-Aid registered his complaint that they had insulted the prophet Mohammad and Islam and threatened his life.

But the lawyer of the three Christians told Compass that Al-Aid has failed to produce evidence of his claims and hopes to clear them in October.

“He has no proof,” said the lawyer.

Ourahmane said that Al-Aid had shown the police some text messages to support his claims but that police said the number had not been registered with telecommunications services.

Just over a month ago, Al-Aid went to the church where Essaghir is an elder.

“He was screaming and saying all sorts of things,” said Ourahmane. “We felt that maybe [fundamentalists] sent him expecting that we would be harsh and beat him up.”

Instead, the church called police, who came and took Al-Aid and Essaghir to the police station.

“I think it was planned,” said Ourahmane. “I think he’s a bit weak psychologically, so they use him.”

Asked about Al-Aid’s mental state, the lawyer told Compass, “I don’t think he is crazy, perhaps strange… perhaps there are others who are controlling him.”

The accuser told Compass by telephone that he was not ready to speak. “My story is long,” Al-Aid said.

Ourahmane said that before heading to court in Ain El-Turck west of Oran on Tuesday morning for the first scheduled appeal, he had spoken with Al-Aid, telling him that he was forgiven, that the accused still loved him and that he shouldn’t worry.


Constitutional Contradiction

The three accused men’s lawyer, who asked to be unnamed for security reasons, said that although Christians are protected by the country’s constitution to believe as they wish, the court can interpret the law based on Islamic laws.

“There is a contradiction there,” he said.

Though no Christian has yet served jail time on religious charges, several still on trial or appealing their convictions have said that negative publicity has damaged their businesses and family life. The government’s handing of suspended sentences also allows the government to save face before human rights advocates by showing its prison cells empty of Christian “convicts,” say experts on Algeria.

In response to criticism, government officials have said that Christians are subject to the same legal restrictions as those imposed on Muslims in the Muslim-majority nation.

They claimed last week that Protestant evangelists were seeking to divide Algeria by using conversions to create a new religious minority.

Report from Compass Direct News