Excerpts from letter of Pope John Paul II on Martin Luther

 — Nov. 5, 19835 nov. 1983

Following are excerpts from Pope John Paul II’s letter on Martin Luther, dated Oct. 31, and addressed to Johannes Cardinal Willebrands, Archbishop of Utrecht. The letter, which was written in German, was translated by The Associated Press from a text in Italian released today by the Vatican.

November 10, 1983, is the 500th anniversary of the birth of Doctor Martin Luther of Eisleben. On this occasion, numerous Christians, especially of the Lutheran-Evangelical confession, remember that theologian who contributed in a substantial manner to the radical change of ecclesiastical and secular reality in the West. Our world still experiences his great impact on history.

For the Catholic Church the name of Martin Luther has through the centuries been tied to a painful period in history, in particular to the experience of profound ecclesiastical divisions.

For this reason, the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther must be for us an occasion to meditate, in Christian truth and charity, on that event engraved in history that was the epoch of the Reformation. It is time that we distance ourselves from historic events and assure that they are often better understood and evoked.

Year Dedicated to Luther

Noted personalities and institutions of Christian Lutherans have indicated the opportunity that the year dedicated to Luther be marked by a genuine ecumenical spirit and by discussion on Luther that favours unity of Christians.

I welcome with satisfaction this intention and I send you a fraternal invitation to reach together a deeper and more complete image of the historical events and a critical reflection on the manifold heritage of Luther.

The scientific research of Evangelical and Catholic scholars, research whose results have already reached notable points of convergence, have led to outlining a more complete and distinct picture of Luther’s personality, of the complex plot of historical reality in the society, politics and church of the first half of the 16th century.

As a consequence there has been clearly delineated the profound religiousness of Luther who, with burning passion, was driven by the examination of eternal salvation. Fundamental Questions at Stake

At the same time it was seen that clearly the rupture of ecclesiastical unity cannot be reduced to the lack of comprehension by Catholic Church authorities or solely to Luther’s lack of understanding of true Catholicism, even if both factors played a role.

In the dispute on the relation between Faith and Tradition, fundamental questions were at stake on the correct interpretation and on the reception of Christian faith, which had in themselves a potential for ecclesiastical division not explainable by historical reasons alone.

It is a matter of reaching, through an investigation that does not take sides, motivated only by the search for truth, a true image of the Reformation, of the entire epoch of the Reformation and of the people involved in it.

Only in offering ourself without reserve to a purification through the truth can we find a common interpretation of the past and gain at the same time a new point of departure for the dialogue of today.

And this is precisely our second obligation. The clarification of history that turns to the past and whose significance persists must go in equal steps with the dialogue of faith which we at present embark on to look for unity.

This dialogue finds a solid base in that which unites us even after the separation and that is: in the Word of the Scripture, in the confession of faith, in the councils of the ancient church.

Posted: Nov. 5, 1983 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=9650
Categories: NewsIn this article: dialogue, John Paul II, Martin Luther
Transmis : 5 nov. 1983 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=9650
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : dialogue, John Paul II, Martin Luther

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