Ecumenical Plans for 500th Reformation Day

I’m reading through this Catholic-Lutheran document. Interesting statements:

  1. Lutherans and Catholics have many reasons to retell their history in
    new ways. They have been brought closer together through family re -
    lations, through their service to the larger world mission, and through
    their common resistance to tyrannies in many places. These deepened
    contacts have changed mutual perceptions, bringing new urgency for
    e cumenical dialogue and further research. The ecumenical movement
    has altered the orientation of the churches’ perceptions of the Reformation:
    ecumenical theologians have decided not to pursue their confessional
    self-assertions at the expense of their dialogue partners but
    rather to search for that which is common within the differences, even
    within the oppositions, and thus work toward overcoming churchdividing

Twentieth-century Catholic research on Luther
21. Twentieth-century Catholic research on Luther built upon a Catholic
interest in Reformation history that awakened in the second half of the
nineteenth century. These theologians followed the efforts of the
Catholic population in the Protestant-dominated German empire to free
themselves from a one-sided, anti-Roman, Protestant historiography.
The breakthrough for Catholic scholarship came with the thesis that
Luther overcame within himself a Catholicism that was not fully
Catholic. According to this view, the life and teaching of the church in
the late Middle Ages served mainly as a negative foil for the Reforma-
tion; the crisis in Catholicism made Luther’s religious protest quite
convincing to some.

30 Pope Benedict also recognized the ways in which the person and theo -
logy of Martin Luther pose a spiritual and theological challenge to
Catholic theology today when, in 2011, he visited the Augustinian Friary
in Erfurt where Luther had lived as a friar for about six years. Pope
Benedict commented, »What constantly exercised [Luther] was the question
of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life’s journey.
›How do I find a gracious God?‹ – this question struck him in the
heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and in -
ner struggle. For him, theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the
struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God. ›How
do I find a gracious God?‹ The fact that this question was the driving
force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me. For
who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians?
What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching?
Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition
that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues.«8

Ministers for the parishes
66. Now that the Lutheran parishes had the Scriptures in the vernacular,
the catechism, hymns, a church order, and orders of service, a major
problem remained, namely how to provide ministers for the parishes.
During the first years of the Reformation, many priests and monks
became Lutheran ministers, so that enough pastors were available.
But this method of recruiting ministers eventually proved to be insufficient.

  1. It is remarkable that the reformers waited until 1535 before they organized
    their own ordinations in Wittenberg. In the Augsburg Confession
    (1530), the reformers declared that they were prepared to obey
    the bishops if the bishops themselves would allow the preaching of the
    gospel according to Reformation beliefs. Since this did not happen, the
    reformers had to choose between maintaining the traditional way of ordaining
    priests by bishops, thereby giving up Reformation preaching,
    or keeping Reformation preaching, but ordaining pastors by other pastors.
    The reformers chose the second solution, reclaiming a tradition of
    interpreting the Pastoral Epistles that went back to Jerome in the early
  1. Members of the Wittenberg theological faculty, acting on behalf of the
    church, examined both the doctrine and the lives of the candidates. Or -
    dinations took place in Wittenberg rather than in the parishes of the or -
    dinands, since the ministers were ordained to the ministry of the entire
    church. The ordination testimonies emphasized the ordinands’ doctrinal
    agreement with the catholic church. The ordination rite consisted in the
    laying on of hands and prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Ideally, I’d like to celebrate Reformation Day by a penitential pilgrimage from Wittenberg to Rome, and invite others to join me. But it’s unlikely to happen–I probably won’t have the time and money to do it myself, or the organizational skills to sell the idea to others.


I find it interesting that this has become something of a feast day for protestants, despite objection by some protestants to traditional Christian feast days.

Benedict XVI has some good things to say on Luther.

“…the Catholic doctrine of the priesthood as proclaimed by Trent… For, in contrast to the biblically motivated force of Luther’s attitude, the Tridentine statement [Trent’s statement] seemed too positivistic and ecclesiological… we must read Trent in the context of the whole ecclesial tradition and, in this way, recognize the magnitude of the question, which is by no means limited to the problem of sacrifice. If we do that, the Tridentine statement will not, of course, be nullified, but its context will, to a certain extent, change its perspective and so give Luther’s questioning the weight it deserves.” - Principles of Catholic Theology

And he has quite a bit to say about a “theology of the Cross” (understanding it helps with interpreting the above quote)


Actually this document is the preparatory statement of contemporary Catholic and Lutheran rapprochement.

191 is speaking to all non-episcopal Lutherans [LCMS] that you must adopt apostolic succession to be considered Lutheran and to be considered Catholic.

Fullness of sacramental sign
191. For Catholics, Lutheran ordinations lack a fullness of sacramental sign.
In Catholic doctrine, »the practice and doctrine of apostolic succession
in the episcopate is, together with the threefold ministry, part of the
complete structure of the church. This succession is realized in a corporate
manner as bishops are taken into the college of Catholic bishops
and thereby have the power to ordain. Therefore it is also Catholic
doctrine that in Lutheran churches the sacramental sign of ordination
is not fully present because those who ordain do not act in communion
with the Catholic episcopal college. Therefore the Second Vatican Council
speaks of a defectus sacramenti ordinis (UR 22) in these churches«
(ApC 283).70

Next is recognition of commonality: Catholics & Lutherans

  1. The Second Vatican Council teaches that people who are baptized and
    believe in Christ but do not belong to the Roman Catholic church »have
    been justified by faith in Baptism [and] are members of Christ’s body
    and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as
    brothers by the children of the Catholic Church« (UR 1.3).84 Lutheran
    Christians say the same of their Catholic fellow Christians.
  2. Since Catholics and Lutherans are bound to one another in the body
    of Christ as members of it, then it is true of them what Paul says in
    1 Corinthians 12:26: »If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one
    member is honored, all rejoice together.« What affects one member of
    the body also affects all the others. For this reason, when Lutheran
    Christians remember the events that led to the particular formation of
    their churches, they do not wish to do so without their Catholic fellow
    Christians. In remembering with each other the beginning of the
    Reformation, they are taking their baptism seriously.

I think you’ll find your perception a bit overdone. Among Lutherans, no surprisingly, we observe Reformation Sunday. But then, we celebrate other feast days, as well. I would think the observance is significantly less in those communions (virtually all of them) who lack real ties to Luther or the Lutheran Reformation.


Reformation Day is Oct 31. The intent to connect to our feast with All Saints Day/ All Souls Day.

The bright red color of martyrs in the paraments/ chasuble. And then a Reformation Festival at the largest parish later in the day. I have picture of me and the sainted Oswald Hoffman [Lutheran Hour] after a joint Vespers. :slight_smile:

Oct. 31 is also the feast day of St. Wolfgang. He was a German bishop (trying to make a Reformation connection :D).

Interesting. I haven’t read the whole document, but the part about “…the sacramental sign of ordination is not fully present because those who ordain do not act in communion with the Catholic episcopal college” sounds to me more like the thinking of the Orthodox than the thinking of Rome.

I spent several days in Wittenberg earlier this month. There is a great deal of activity in sprucing up the city and to complete restoration work before 2017. I found the history of the place to be amazing and the beer to be excellent. But overall, I was left with a profound sense of grief.

I cannot get past the fact that this is, in essence, a celebration of division. How can we, as Catholics, celebrate the fact that Luther divided the Church? :shrug:

It may be more a recognition than celebration but this document points to reconciliation.

So you’re not coming to my big party for the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther being excommunicated? (It’s already being called the “party of the century”.)

But seriously, it understandable that you would think ^^ that, if you haven’t been reading “that other thread”, where the following quote was posted a few days ago:

  1. In 2017, when Lutheran Christians celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, they are not thereby celebrating the division of the Western church. No one who is theologically responsible can celebrate the division of Christians from one another.

No, I guess I have not been reading “that other thread”. The quote you posted states that they are not celebrating division, but it fails to say what they are celebrating.

Commemoration is not celebration.

I’m not talking about Lutherans.

That’s fine, but it seems to me to be the same thing as “commemorating” the day that one’s child ran away from home. It would seem to be a rather sad occasion. That is not the sentiment that I am picking up here.

I think it would be easy to hang our head and wring our hands about the situation - our division is lamentable and not what God would have us do

But Lutherans should also celebrate (amongst ourselves) as well - for if there’s nothing to celebrate, if there is nothing good about our continuation of (what we feel) historic Christianity, then this whole adventure is for nothing.

So a little of both.

We should constructively embrace out Catholic Christian brothers and sisters and repent of the sins we have committed - but we should also celebrate the sacrifices, hard work, martyrdom, and exile in the hope of proclaiming the Gospel.

With what posture should Catholics join in this “commemoration”?

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