The latest, six-year round of conversations between Catholic and Southern Baptist representatives has officially ended. The planned conclusion of the discussions was announced in March, but the last meeting was held in September. Southern Baptist officials, who have focused primarily on evangelism, decided to end the talks and the Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs "regretfully concurred in this decision" on Oct. 10, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced.

In a joint statement, Catholic and Southern Baptist officials said the discussions helped foster better understanding between the two Christian denominations. "Thankful for the opportunity to bear witness to a Baptist understanding of Holy Scripture and salvation, Baptist leaders who participated were appreciative for the frank and honest discussions held with key thinkers in the Roman Catholic community," the statement reads. "There is no doubt but that these conversations will help each ecclesiastical community bring to its flock a more true-to-life characterization of the other."

The statement emphasized that the point of the discussions was to help each group clarify the differences between them. "There has been no hint of compromise or hope of coming to some united conclusion," the statement reads.

It also cited numerous ways in which Catholics and Southern Baptists relate, including efforts to support marriage and the family and to consider social service and public policy matters. "This conversation, for mutual understanding, is only one small aspect of the many avenues of communication, and should not be seen as diminished commitment in either community to continued collaboration whenever possible," the statement reads.

It was signed by Robert Reccord, president of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, and Bishop Kendrick Williams, a member of the Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

The discussions led to a report on Scripture that was released in 1999. No report was produced from a four-year discussion on salvation. The two religious groups have worked together since 1971 and began regular discussions in 1978.

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