Reformation Day is a new public holiday in more German states

(Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert)Reformation 500th anniversary commemoration service held by Namibian Lutheran churches hosting the Lutheran World Federation 12th anniversary in the Katutura quarter of Windhoek on May 14, 2017.

More than half of Germany's 16 federal states have now declared Reformation Day a public holiday.


The North German states of Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein have Wednesday, October 31, a new public holiday, bringing the number of states making it a day off to nine, the Lutheran World Federation reported.

Last year, October 31 was proclaimed a public holiday across the whole of Germany to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

In Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, people have for years had October 31 off.

In the run-up to this decision, initiated by state government policy-makers, there were lively and sometimes heated discussions in the church and society about the significance of such a public holiday.

Celebrations in Reformation anniversary year 2017 increased the awareness for ecumenical and interreligious cooperation among church leaders.

Ralf Meister, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover, commented said in a report in May, "The Day of the Reformation is a day on which we will seek to promote tolerant relations among religions, confessions and worldviews, based on dialogue."

He said celebrating Reformation Day should certainly not be a "Martin Luther commemoration day".

The events planned for Reformation Day 2018 reflect this approach, said the LWF.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brunswick is expecting the new Catholic Bishop of Hildesheim diocese, Heiner Wilmer SCJ, at its service in the cathedral.

"That is a wonderful ecumenical symbol and underlines the good cooperation between Christians in Lower Saxony," Bishop Christoph Meyns said.

In Hamburg, Bishop Kirsten Fehrs from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany, Canon Peter Mies, the Catholic dean for Hamburg, and Rev. Uwe Onnen, chair of the Council of Christian Churches in Hamburg, will hold a joint service.

Bishop Fehrs said, "I am very happy that we will celebrate this day in ecumenical unity and cultural openness and not separately in our denominations."

In Wittenberg in the east of Germany, from where the Reformation started in 1517 with Martin Luther's posting of his 95 theses of protest, there is already an established tradition of numerous events around October 31.

The program features a town festival, guided tours through the historical sites, concerts and lectures.

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