500 Years Later

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), November 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

500 Years Later


Byline: The Register-Guard

History will not remember Pope Francis's meeting with the president of the Lutheran World Federation Monday in Sweden as it does, say, the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. And yet as observances of the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation begin, it doesn't matter that a joint statement signed by Pope Francis and Bishop Munib Younan, pledging to improve relationships between Catholics and Lutherans, was largely a symbolic gesture.

In these dark times of division - Democrats vs. Republicans, blacks vs. whites, police vs. citizens - even a sliver of reconciliation between factions that have had their differences can seem like a heavenly shaft of light. Can offer a touch of hope. And can remind us that great leaders see a greater good beyond themselves and have the courage to stand up for it.

In 1517, the German monk Martin Luther is believed to have nailed his "Ninety-Five Theses" - his personal revolt against Catholicism - to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, triggering what became known as the Protestant Reformation.

Meanwhile, the newly invented printing press connected the masses to Luther's spirit of revolution and threatened the power of political and religious authorities, the status quo. But a Catholic Counter-Reformation pushed back, culminating in the Thirty Years' War - Europe's deadliest religious war, which claimed 8 million casualties between 1618 and 1648.

In the past, Pope Francis has spoken harshly of Protestant reformers. But recently he praised Luther for criticizing a church that, at the time, was "no model to intimate. …

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