The common ground and differences between the Catholic Church and the New Apostolic Church (NAC) were discussed in the podium discussion between Auxiliary Bishop Rolf Steinhäuser (Archdiocese of Cologne) and Apostle Clément Haeck (NAC West Germany). Bishop Peter Johanning (NAC West Germany) - like Apostel Haeck, a member of the working group on contacts to confessions religions (AG KKR), moderated the discussion.
Bishop Peter Johanning stated at the beginning of his moderation that there are quite a few similarities in the doctrine of the two churches: they attach great importance to the authorized ministry, are universal churches and understand themselves as contextual especially realized in the Church of Christ. However, there are also many differences. To talk about both was the concern of the event. The over 600 participants expressed great interest in this topic.
What distinguishes a Catholic from a New Apostolic Bishop?
Bishop Johanning introduced Apostle Haeck to the question of how a New Apostolic Bishop and a Catholic Bishop differ. "Both have completely different authority", he says. The understanding of both churches is clearly different at this point, said the Apostle. According to the New Apostolic understanding, the Catholic Episcopate in terms of official authority is identical to the Apostle ministry in the New Apostolic Church; both ministries had the same tasks. These included the tasks of donating the Sacred Seal or the Sacrament of Confirmation and the ordination of ministries. The Bishop in the NAC, on the other hand, works for the Apostle, so he has a certain helper function. He only has the authority to sacrifice the Holy Baptism and the Holy Communion - like any priestly ministry in the NAC.
Auxiliary Bishop Steinhäuser made clear that a Catholic bishop does not claim to stand in the place of an Apostle, but understands himself only as an Apostle's successor. According to Catholic doctrine, the apostleship was extinguished with the death of the last Apostle, but the task of the Apostles had not ceased: "This is where, in the Catholic Church, the Bishops enter", said the auxiliary bishop.
The unity of the Church
There is a great deal of similarity in the way in which the Catholic and New Apostolic Churches see themselves as world churches: in all global cultural and social differences, the unity of the Church must be preserved. Episcopal conferences, as well as Apostle meetings, are there to be remembered exactly, according to the unanimous opinion. "The task of the Bishop is not his own profiling, but the service of unity", according to Auxiliary Bishop Steinhäuser. Bishop Peter Johanning added that Apostles and District Apostles are also committed to the universal Church in the NAC.
Where is the Church realised in the full sense?
Whether, according to Catholic doctrine, there could still be a church next to the church, the Catholic priest was asked. Steinhauser replied diplomatically: "I do not think we are very much concerned about self-image." Then he specified that in the Catholic understanding there is only one church of Jesus Christ, which consists of all those who are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. However, the Church in full form is realized only where there is a sacramental office, proclaiming the word of God, and where the sacraments are donated and received. For the Catholic doctrine it is important that all this happens in the communion of bishops and with the Pope.
Chief Apostle versus Pope
With these remarks, New Apostolic Christians could really opinate that it was like the Chief Apostle and the Apostles, the Auxiliary Bishop admitted. And indeed, he continued, the basic construction is a similar one. As the Chief Apostle stands for the Apostle Peter, the Pope stands as a successor to the Apostle Peter in the Catholic faith. Steinhauser's conclusion: There is still potential to grow together. Substantial similarities could be established in the comparison of the two catechisms. You can find much more connecting there than you would have guessed.
Bishop Johanning summed up that the Catholic Church certainly admits to the New Apostolic Church a concept of the church, although according to Catholic understanding it is not a church in full sense. That's what the New Apostolic Catechism says about the other churches. Apostle Haeck reiterated the New Apostolic view, which emphasizes the apostolicity of the Church. Both the Catholic and the New Apostolic Church refer to the two-nature doctrine; there is the visible, but also the invisible Church of Christ. All the baptized, who confess Jesus Christ as their Lord, who believe in his death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming, constituted this entire invisible Church of Christ.
Why not have a joint celebration of Holy Communion?
With so much togetherness, of course, the question arises as to why a common Eucharistic celebration cannot be possible. Bishop Johanning turned to the Auxiliary Bishop. His response: "Communion is not a means to find unity, but an expression of found unity." He went on to say that although the teachings of the Eucharist and the Holy Communion are not identical in the Catholic view, they have many intersections, as examples he mentioned the real presence, that is, the real presence of Jesus Christ in the gifts of bread and wine, or the necessary separation of gifts by ministers of the Church. So this is not the problem. The problem on the part of the Catholic doctrine on the question of where the New Apostolic ministers would have authority to donate sacraments. Apostolic succession is important, as well as the New Apostolic Catechism. But it is still very laborious for the Catholic Church to grant this to the NAC. "There is still a need for discussion", said Auxiliary Bishop Steinhäuser.
Apostle Haeck explained that the New Apostolic Church has the opportunity to attend the Eucharist in person. At Holy Days church ceremonies, confirmation or baptism services all rite baptized are invited to participate. Still smiling, Bishop Johanning made a request to his Catholic name-mate: "Perhaps you can once promote the concept of "hospitable intercommunion" in one of the next Episcopal Conferences". Even the Bishop himself was amazed by this newly born term.