German Catholics wary about Reformation celebrations

Catholics in Germany are wary about planned celebrations in 2017 to mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s launching of the Reformation.

A report from Reuters said German Protestants have invited Catholics to join in the celebrations, but it is still hard for some Catholics to accept the invite.

“It’s not impossible in principle, but it depends on the character of the events planned,” said Bishop Gerhard Feige, the top Catholic official dealing with Protestants.

In a statement for the Protestant Reformation Day holiday on Wednesday, Feige said Catholics consider the division of the western Church as a tragedy “and – at least until now – do not think they can celebrate this merrily.”

The Reformation began in 1517 when German monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door to denounce corruption in the Catholic Church, especially the sale of indulgences to help build the lavish new 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.

After Luther’s break with Rome, dissent spread and thousands of new denominations eventually emerged, the largest being the Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists and Lutherans.

Luther is also a major cultural figure in Germany thanks to his pioneering translation of the Bible.

Commemorative church services, concerts and conferences leading up to 2017 are already underway around Germany.

Reuters said the mix of religious, cultural and commercial activities led Feige to ask what the Catholics were being invited to join.

“Many initiatives and plans may well be justified, but it’s not always easy to find out what 2017 will be all about,” he wrote in what he called his “Ten Catholic Theses”.

“It would be good if the Protestants would work out some points more clearly,” he said.


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