The Malta Independent 11 December 2017, Monday

Commemorating the Protestant Reformation

Sunday, 3 December 2017, 08:54 Last update: about 8 days ago

Tuesday, 31 October marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was on this day, in 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his paper listing the 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, which served as a bulletin board for various announcements connected to academic and church affairs.

Luther’s theses were written in the Latin language and printed on a folio sheet by the printer John Gruenenberg, an entrepreneur in the new print medium that was used for the first ever in Germany in around 1450. Luther demanded a “disputation on the power and efficacy of indulgences out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light.” It was exactly this event that initiated a series of events that finally led to the Protestant Reformation.

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To commemorate this specific event, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, together with the Lutheran World Federation, considered it appropriate to publish a joint statement to mark the occasion. In their statement, both sides gave thanks for the spiritual and the theological gifts that resulted, thanks to the Reformation. The statement also recognised the wounds that were inflicted on the Body of Christ as represented by both Catholic and Lutheran sides. “Likewise, we begged forgiveness for our failures and for the ways in which Christians have wounded the Body of the Lord and offended each other during the 500 years since the beginning of the Reformation up to today”.

Furthermore, the statement acknowledges “the ecumenical journey that [both Catholics and Lutherans] have travelled together during the last 50 years”. It says that “this pilgrimage, sustained by our common prayer, worship and ecumenical dialogue, has resulted in the removal of prejudices, the increase in mutual understanding and the identification of decisive theological agreements. In the face of so many blessings along the way, we raise our hearts in praise of the Triune God for the mercy we receive”.

A year before Pope Francis and former Lutheran World Federation president Bishop Munib Younan, in the ancient Lund Cathedral, stated together: “Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table, as the concrete expression of full unity. We experience the pain of those who share their whole lives, but cannot share God’s redeeming presence at the Eucharistic table. We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ. We long for this wound in the Body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavours, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue”.

However, the Joint Statement observed that “among the blessings of this year of Commemoration is the fact that, for the first time, Lutherans and Catholics have seen the Reformation from an ecumenical perspective. This has allowed a new insight into the events of the 16th century that led to our separation. We recognise that, while the past cannot be changed, its influence upon us today can be transformed to become a stimulus for growing communion, and a sign of hope for the world to overcome division and fragmentation. Again, it has become clear that what we have in common is far more than that which still divides us.”

In order to explore more new insights of the Reformation, the Augustinian Institute of Pietà will be hosting the 21stAnnual Saint Augustine Lecture 2017. The lecture was instituted in 1997 by the Rev. Prof. Salvino Caruana OSA, Director of the Augustinian Institute. This year’s lecture will be addressed by Rev. Prof. Theodore Dieter from Strasbourg University. The first lecture will be on Tuesday, 5 December at 7 pm at the University of Malta, Gateway Hall and Prof. Dieter will discuss Martin Luther’s ‘Heidelberg Disputation’ (1518), the Programmatic Theses of an Augustinian Friar 500 Years Ago. The evening will be presided over by Rev. Prof. Hector Scerri, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Theology, University of Malta and the lecture will be followed by a reception.

Prof. Dieter will deliver a second lecture on Wednesday, 6 December at 6.15 pm at the Augustinian Institute, discussing the theme of a Theological Profile of Dr Martin Luther. Prof. Salvino Caruana OSA will be in the chair and a reception will be held after the lecture. 

 

Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

 

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