Senior Roman Catholic and Lutheran officials announced on Monday they would mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 as a shared event rather than highlight the clash that split Western Christianity.
The Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) presented a report in Geneva admitting both were guilty of harming Christian unity in the past and describing a growing consensus between the two churches in recent decades.
The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, the doctrinal challenge that launched the Protestant Reformation, will be the first centenary celebration in the age of ecumenism, globalisation and the secularisation of Western societies.
“The awareness is dawning on Lutherans and Catholics that the struggle of the 16th century is over,” the report said. “The reasons for mutually condemning each other’s faith have fallen by the wayside.”
They now agree belief in Jesus unites them despite lingering differences, it said, and inspires them to cooperate more closely to proclaim the Gospel in increasingly pluralistic societies.
“This is a very important step in a healing process which we all need and we are all praying for,” LWF General Secretary Martin Junge said at the report’s presentation in Geneva.
“The division of the church is something we cannot celebrate but we can see what is positive and try to find ways towards the future together,” said Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican’s department to promote Christian unity.
Rest here as common ground is sought.