Pope Francis To Join Ecumenical Celebration of Protestant Reformation

By Michael W. Chapman | January 25, 2016 | 11:46 AM EST

Pope Francis.  (AP) 

(CNSNews.com) – Pope Francis will participate in a joint ceremony between the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation (WLF) to honor the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on Oct. 31, 2016, in Lund, Sweden, according to the Vatican press office.  

On October 31, 1517, the former Catholic priest Martin Luther (d.1546) nailed his 95 theses (disputations about Catholic Church practices, including indulgences) on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany, an action that helped launch the Reformation.

The ceremony in Sweden in October of this year will touch off a year-long celebration and series of events about the Protestant Reformation.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis will participate in a common worship service based upon a Catholic-Lutheran “Common Prayer,” which was published earlier this year by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU).

In a Jan. 25 press release issued by the LWF and the PCPCU, it states the celebration “will highlight the solid ecumenical developments between Catholics and Lutherans and the joint gifts received through dialogue. The event will include a common worship based on the recently published Catholic-Lutheran ‘Common Prayer’ liturgical guide.”

LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr. Martin Junge said, “The LWF is approaching the Reformation anniversary in a spirit of ecumenical accountability. I’m carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we are working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence.”

Painting of Martin Luther. 

(Public domain.) 

Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said,  “By concentrating together on the centrality of the question of God and on a Christocentric approach, Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility of an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, not simply in a pragmatic way, but in the deep sense of faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ.”

Two of the major Protestant teachings established by Luther include the belief that the Bible is the only source of faith, and that one can save one’s soul through faith in God alone.

In 1520, Pope Leo X issued a document, Exsurge Domine, condemning what the Catholic Church viewed as the errors of Martin Luther  and called upon him to “cease from all preaching or the office of preacher.”

In the Jan. 25 press release,  the LWF and PCPCU state, “The year 2017 will also mark 50 years of the international Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, which has yielded notable ecumenical results, of which most significant is the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ).”

“The JDDJ was signed by the LWF and the Catholic Church in 1999, and affirmed by the World Methodist Council in 2006,” says the release. “The declaration nullified centuries’ old disputes between Catholics and Lutherans over the basic truths of the doctrine of justification, which was at the center of the 16th century Reformation.”

Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman