© PHOTO.VA – Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis stressed this while addressing the International Conference of Study organized by the Pontifical Council for Historical Sciences, on the occasion of the 500-Year Anniversary of the Protestant Reform (1517-2017) on the theme: ‘Luther, 500 years later.’ A Reflection on the Protestant Reform in the Historic, Ecclesial Context which took place in Rome, March 29-31, 2017. With a historical scope, there were no theological discussions.
The gathering marks the first time Catholics and Protestants together hosted a conference on historical sciences together in the Vatican.
“All of us,” the Pope highlighted in his address, “are well aware that the past cannot be changed. Yet today, after 50 years of ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants, it is possible to engage in a purification of memory.”
“Today, as Christians,” he encouraged, “all of us are called to put behind us all prejudice towards the faith that others profess with a different emphasis or language, to offer one another forgiveness for the sin committed by those who have gone before us, and together to implore from God the gift of reconciliation and unity.”
Reflecting on the study day itself, the Pope had said: I confess that my first response to this praiseworthy initiative of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences was one of gratitude to God, together with a certain surprise, since not long ago a meeting like this would have been unthinkable.
“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.”
He expressed his joy that this commemoration has offered scholars from various institutions an occasion to study those events together.
“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.”
“An attentive and rigorous study, free of prejudice and polemics,” the Holy Father pointed out, “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.”