Serious research on Martin Luther can help heal relations between Catholics and Protestants by highlighting his critique of the Church and the errors and sins that led to division and the Reformation, Pope Francis has said.
The Pope spoke on March 31 to about 150 people at an international congress organized by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. The congress.
The March 29-31 meeting discussed the theme, "Luther: 500 Years Later. A Rereading of the Lutheran Reformation in the Historical, Ecclesial Context," one numerious ecumenical meetings to put the monumental event shaping world history into perspective.
On Oct 31, 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 theses protesting against abuses in the Church of his day and this triggered the Reformation which was carried forward by Reformers such as Jean Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli and John Knox.
Luther's criticism triggered the worldwide Reformation, which not only brought about the division in the Church, but also some extremely bloody wars. Protestants and Catholics often used the subsequent anniversaries of the Reformation to condemn one another.
'SERIOUS RESEARCH INTO LUTHER'S CRITIQUE'
"Serious research into the figure of Luther and his critique of the Church of his time and the papacy certainly contributes to overcoming the atmosphere of mutual distrust and rivalry that for all too long marked relations between Catholics and Protestants," said Francis.
He said, "Today, as Christians, all of us are called to put behind us all prejudice toward the faith that others profess with a different emphasis or language, to offer one another forgiveness for the sins committed by those who have gone before us, and together to implore from God the gift of reconciliation and unity."
Francis said it was a "praiseworthy initiative" and he felt gratitude to God and "a certain surprise, since not long ago a meeting like this would have been unthinkable," Catholic News Service reported.
The pontiff noted, "Catholics and Lutherans together, discussing Luther, at a meeting organized by an office of the Holy See - truly we are experiencing the results of the working of the Holy Spirit, who overcomes every obstacle and turns conflicts into occasions for growth in communion."
Pope Francis said he was pleased that the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation offered the opportunity to jointly study such past events.
"Serious research into the figure of Luther and his critique of the church of his time and the papacy certainly contributes to overcoming the atmosphere of mutual distrust and rivalry that for all too long marked relations between Catholics and Protestants," he said.
"An attentive and rigorous study, free of prejudice and polemics, enables the churches, now in dialogue, to discern and receive all that was positive and legitimate in the Reformation, while distancing themselves from errors, extremes and failures, and acknowledging the sins that led to the division," the Pope said.
While the past cannot be changed, he said, 50 years of dialogue means there can be "a purification of memory," which is "to tell that history differently," in a way that is "free of any lingering trace of the resentment over past injuries that has distorted our view of one another."