VATICAN CITY (CNS): Rumours that the Vatican is set to rehabilitate Martin Luther, the 16th-century leader of the Protestant Reformation, are groundless, Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said.
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 ex-communicated and condemned for heresy.
The story “does not have any foundation, insofar as no rehabilitation of Luther is foreseen”, Fr Lombardi told the Italian news agency ANSA on March 8.
Excesses in 16th-century preaching about indulgences and in Catholic penitential practices sparked 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.