Vatican tells bishops not to share parish information with Mormons

VATICAN CITY -- Seeking to stop Mormons from posthumously baptizing Catholic ancestors, the Vatican has instructed bishops around the world not to share parish registers with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy issued the directive in a letter to national bishops' conferences in early April, according to Catholic News Service. The letter referred to "grave reservations" expressed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Catholic Church's highest doctrinal body.

The Rev. James Massa, an official of the U.S. bishops' conference, told CNS that the Vatican had acted to prevent the use of church records for the "proxy baptisms" of deceased Catholics by Mormons, which the letter calls a "detrimental practice."

Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, believe that by performing such baptisms they can offer their ancestors the chance to become Mormons after death.

Massa acknowledged that the Vatican's action might complicate dialogue between the Catholics and Mormons, but said the "purpose of interreligious dialogue is not only to identify agreements, but also to identify differences."

Relations between the two churches took a step forward in April, during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the U.S., when Mormon representatives took part for the first time in a prayer service led by a pope.

An LDS church spokesman declined to comment on the Vatican's letter, saying that church officials had not yet seen the document.

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