Chancellor Merkel urges German churches to agree on Luther anniversary

November 5, 2012

(Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a news conference at European Union (EU) leaders summit in Brussels October 19, 2012.  REUTERS/Yves Herman)

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.

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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.

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