Vatican dismisses Luther rehabilitation report

12 Mar 2008

By The Record

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Rumours that the Vatican is set to rehabilitate Martin Luther,
the 16th-century leader of the Protestant Reformation, are groundless,
said the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

An artist’s depiction of Pope John Paul II and reformer Martin Luther appears on a sidewalk of a German street in this file photo. In approving the Lutheran-Catholic “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” the Vat ican said that most Catholic condemnations of Lutheran teaching about how people are justified and saved no longer apply. Photo: CNS

News reports in early March alleged that Pope Benedict XVI was
dedicating a planned September symposium with former doctoral students
to re-evaluating Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy.
The story "does not have any foundation, insofar as no rehabilitation of Luther is foreseen," Father Lombardi told the Italian news agency ANSA March 8.
Vatican officials said the topic of the pope’s
annual summer gathering of former students this year has not yet been
decided. Of the two topics under consideration, Luther,
a theologian and Augustinian monk, to seek reform in the church. His
concerns started a movement that led to the Protestant Reformation.
The Church excommunicated Luther for preaching a philosophy doubting the pope’s infallibility.Luther
emphasised the absolute primacy of God’s action in freeing people from
sin and making them just, and the total sufficiency of Christ’s death
to expiate the sins of all.

In 1983, Pope John Paul II noted that studies by
Lutheran and Catholic researchers "have led to a more complete and more
differentiated image of the personality of Luther" as well as the complicated historical factors surrounding his life.
Nearly 500 years after the Reformation began in 1517, Lutherans and
Catholics resolved one of the issues that began the Reformation era
when they signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
in 1999.
The declaration said the churches’ consensus on basic truths
means that the doctrine of justification is not a church-dividing issue
for Catholics and Lutherans even though differences between them remain
in language, theological elaboration and emphasis surrounding those
basic truths.