Friday, September 23, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI will meet with the Lutherans

As a descendant of German Lutherans who arrived into Hoboken, New Jersey in the 19th Century, the idea of Catholics and Lutherans coming together is intriguing to me. Of course we have come together already on the Joint Declaration. Hopefully there will be more movement torwards that time in the future, when we will all be "one."

Here is a good article out of the Spectator by Freddy Gray...

A Catholic-Lutheran rapprochement?

Ecumenism doesn’t excite the media, as a rule. The quest for Christian unity usually involves beardy men drinking tea together, making safe and unfunny jokes about themselves, and agreeing to disagree. It doesn¹t make headlines.

Tomorrow, however, Pope Benedict XVI will mark an amazing shift in the relationship between Protestantism and Catholicism, as he visits Erfurt, the spiritual home of Martin Luther.

The Pope digs Luther, you see. He even digs Lutheranism. As John Allen Jr put it in his biography of Benedict, ‘The Lutherans are to Benedict what the Orthodox are to John Paul: the separated brethren he knows best, and for whom he has the greatest natural affinity.’

Benedict is German and his cultural sensibilities are therefore rather compatible with Germanic Lutheranism: he likes J S Bach and rigorous theology. In fact, as one of the world’s leading Augustinian scholars, Benedict has a natural rapport with Luther’s Augustinianism. In 1998, as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he played a key role in formulating with the Lutheran World Federation the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification), arguably the most groundbreaking ecumenical document of the last twenty years.


It would be overkill to talk about a new era of Catholic-Protestant unity. Benedict told reporters last weekend not to expect a ‘sensation’ in Erfurt. He has said in the past that Lutheranism’s lack of central authority represents an obstacle to meaningful dialogue (‘As soon as there is a Lutheran Church, we can discuss it,’ he once remarked). Plenty of Lutherans, for that matter, can't bear the thought of rapprochement with Rome.

Yet a Roman Pontiff leading an ecumenical service at the monastery of the man who sparked the Reformation, an event that would have been unimaginable 50 years ago – that’s a significant story.


* Bottom right image > Erfurt's Augustine monastery, where Luther lived as a monk before his protest against the Roman Catholic Church in 1517.

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