Merkel urges German churches to agree on Luther fest

PARIS Mon Nov 5, 2012 3:10pm EST

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a guest speech at a Christian Social Union (CSU) party meeting in Munich October 19, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a guest speech at a Christian Social Union (CSU) party meeting in Munich October 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Michael Dalder

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PARIS (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germany's Protestant and Roman Catholic churches on Monday to stress their common beliefs at ceremonies marking the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

Although still five years away, the date has already prompted debate between Protestants preparing major celebrations and Catholics who rue the rebellion of the German monk Martin Luther in 1517 as the start of a painful split in western Christianity.

The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the country's largest association of Protestant churches, wants the Catholics to attend its planned "Luther Jubilee", and its annual synod in a Baltic resort near Luebeck is debating how to make it possible for them to do so.

Merkel, daughter of a Protestant pastor, made a rare visit to the synod and said that, in a secularized world, Christian churches should stress what united them, rather than their enduring theological differences.

"I've learned that even the word 'jubilee' used in connection with the Reformation can give rise to discussions," Merkel said. Catholics attach a special meaning to 'jubilee years' and would prefer to call the event a commemoration.

"Especially in a very secular world, we should always stress what is common in the Christian religion," she said.

The Reformation began in 1517 when Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg to denounce corruption in the Catholic Church, especially the sale of indulgences to help build the lavish Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Excommunicated by Rome, he won support from German princes who soon battled others who remained Catholic. The ensuing wars of religion killed about a third of Germany's population over the next century and spread to neighboring countries as well.

The two churches are roughly equal in size in Germany and, despite falling attendances, both run many schools and social services. Intermarriage is common.

EKD President Nikolaus Schneider told the synod the two churches had already agreed to write a joint book on Christianity next year and hold a major conference on the Bible in 2015 in preparation for the anniversary.

They have also begun discussing whether they could hold a joint service of reconciliation in 2017 "that recognizes before God all the injuries both churches inflicted on each other".

Speaking for the Catholic Church, Hamburg Archbishop Werner Thissen told the synod he hoped for an agreement on how to mark the anniversary.

"Times have changed dramatically since Luther," he said, noting that the Catholic Church's modernizing Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 had "learned a lot from Martin Luther".

(Reporting By Tom Heneghan)

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Comments (3)
Tiu wrote:
The schisms which arose with Luther had in reality been around since the beginning of Christianity. I suspect some survivors from Byzantium may have successfully engineered the protestant revolution as some kind of revenge for Rome (and the Hadsburgs) not supporting Constantinople as it was finally toppled in the 15th century.
Did Luther and Calvin have the same Greek tutor at university?

Nov 05, 2012 3:48pm EST  --  Report as abuse
brotherkenny4 wrote:
Seriously nutty. The christians fight over whether the hats are red or yellow. Death to the yellow hats.

Really all you religious people, do you have to be so crazy about violence and hate? I guess it must be the death fascination that makes you believe in the first place, and then that means that you have no respect for other lives, and that’s just the true believers. The greedy are probably more rational, you know not really believing, but knowing that they can shield their greed with religion. It’s wonderful, this world of violence greed and pain you religious zombies have built here.

Nov 05, 2012 5:03pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Whilst I may not carry the Lutheran label, celebrating a moment that resulted in the message of the Christ being unveiled and moving from the keep of latin-reading authorities to the wider population is doubtless a worthy effort and it is therefore similarly both fitting and heartening that there are efforts to ensure access to this celebration is likewise unveiled and open to all, though sensitivity and selectiveness in organisation will be required. For those minded to master the matter, and as it is at the heart of much of the history of the events at the time, it is worth noting the underlying text from which things began to emerge; two short and famous chapters (five & six) in the book of Romans which announce that a human can be free from the chains of an apparent drive to do wrong because of the One (the Christ) who’s promised death freed us from those wrongs, though a proper understanding in context will require reading that shocking book called the Acts of the Apostles.

Nov 06, 2012 7:28pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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