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Benedict XVI's idea to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

2016-10-12

In 2011, when the pope met with the delegation of the German Lutheran Church, he was struck by the warmth of the encounter.

BENEDICT XVI
January 24, 2011
"I would like to thank you, dear Bishop, in particular, for your words, that with great sincerity, express the common effort for deeper unity among all Christians.”

The novelty of this meeting was the pope's response to the proposal to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation together. 

"On that occasion, Lutherans and Catholics will have the opportunity to celebrate throughout the world a common ecumenical commemoration, to strive for fundamental questions at the global level, not — as you yourself have just said — in the form of a triumphant celebration, but as a common profession of our faith in the Triune God.” 

In his speech, he also proposed this:
"We must give an important place to common prayer and to interior prayer addressed to our Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of mutual wrongs and for culpability relative to the divisions.” 

Throughout his pontificate, Benedict proposed not noticing only the differences, but instead what all Christians have in common.

However, this attitude caused him more of a headache. For example, some Catholic sectors criticized what he said when he traveled to the ex-convent of Erfurt, where the founder of the Protestant Reformation lived.

It was a closed-door meeting with representatives from the Lutheran Church, but afterwards the official conversation was published. 

"What constantly exercised him was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life’s journey. "How do I receive the grace of God?”: this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle.” 

Benedict XVI liked the starting point of Luther, because, as he said, "For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives?"

Although Joseph Ratzinger does not share the same answer Luther gave to the question about God's mercy, many saw in these words a kind of attachment to his message.

Benedict wanted to stress the elements they had in common. He did this without being afraid of the opinion of those who were confused by his cordiality with the Lutherans.


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