Reformation, Catholics and today’s unity

The Reformation’s 500th jubilee is important to Catholics as well as Protestants, says Sr Joyce Ann Zimmerman.

Zimmerman is a Sister of the Precious Blood, and a professor of liturgy from Dayton, Ohio.

Although the Catholic Church has been involved in a number of divisions over the millennia – including the Protestant Reformation – it has come a long way to “restoring unity among all Christians” over the past 50 years, Zimmerman says.

Restoring Christian unity was the Second Vatican Council’s reason for distributing Unitatis redintegratio, its 1964 Decree on Ecumenism, she says, adding:

“Catholic participation at jubilee events would acknowledge the changes the Church has made since the Second Vatican Council”.

Some of the work the church has done to bridge divisions in the past 50 years has resulted in changes to Catholic doctrine and worship, Zimmerman says.

The main aim of these changes was to achieve greater lay participation in the Catholic Church liturgy.

At the same time, long-held divisions were also able to close between Catholics and many Protestant churches as we acknowledge we share similar forms of worship

Zimmerman cites baptism as an example.

Many celebrate baptism with water and “the trinitarian formula, which says:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

This means if a Protestant wants to become a Catholic (or vice versa) so long as they have been baptised according to this formula they need not be re-baptised.

Zimmerman also points out that some Protestant churches also believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (though they may express this differently from Catholics).

Many have also adopted their Eucharistic prayers from the Catholic liturgy.

Furthermore, changes brought about by Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) mean Catholics and Protestants hear the same readings on Sundays.

Regardless of tenets of faith or doctrine, though, Zimmerman says “the primary purpose of prayer/worship is not to expound tenets of faith/doctrine but to give God glory, praise, and thanks”.


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