02 February 2015, The Tablet

Reformation commemorations back on track after Protestant assurance

The 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 must not be a “self-adulatory Protestant celebration”, the new Chairman of the German Protestant Churches, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm said.

Rather than being a memorial of Martin Luther’s “heroism” it should express what was decisive for Luther, namely to take a new look at Jesus Christ, he told the Cologne archdiocese’s online portal, domradio.de, last week.

“Focusing anew on Jesus is what Luther wanted to do at the time and that is what we must do today,” the bishop said. “We must not erect new hurdles between the denominations. It is a matter of highlighting the wonderful Gospel Message anew in a more difficult environment here in Germany and we can only do that together.”

Bishop Bedford-Strohm was “very glad indeed” that he had been able to talk at length to the president of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, about how their Churches would take advantage of the 2017 anniversary to “celebrate a big Jesus Christ Feast in order to focus on Christ anew.” At the same time, both Churches would have the chance to do penance for the confessional wars the Reformation led to, the bishop added.

Bishop Bedford-Strohm’s comments suggest a marked improvement in relations between the two Churches since last June, when Cardinal Walter Kasper said he was “really hurt” by the German Protestant Church’s failure to mention the historic “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” of 1999 in its position paper on the theological foundation of the Reformation. 

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