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In Erfurt Benedict presents Luther as a model for Catholics
In the place where Martin Luther used to speak against the Popes, Benedict XVI, the first German Pope since the Protestant Revolution, deliberately paid homage to that heresiarch. Before the trip, he expressed his desire to link his papal visit to Germany to the 500th anniversary of Protestantism. He also conveyed his wish to meet at greater length with the heads of the so-called Lutheran Church. To fulfill these desires the Lutherans offered him the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt, where Luther studied, became priest and professor of theology before leaving to split the Church and Europe.

Erfurt, where the meeting took place on September 23, 2011, and its neighboring city Wittenberg, where Luther posted his 95 theses, are considered the very heartland of Protestantism. It was there that Pope Ratzinger praised Luther’s quest for God as the “deep passion and driving force of his whole life.”

Moreover, Benedict considered Luther as a model to find God: “The question: What is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? This burning question of Martin Luther must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther.”

Further on in his speech, Ratzinger presented the heresiarch as a model for spirituality: “Luther’s thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric: ‘What promotes Christ’s cause’ was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.”

Such were the concessions Benedict XVI made to Luther and Protestantism, attempting to throw into oblivion the unforgettable condemnations of the Catholic Church against both.

Above left, an overview of the Pope and Nikolaus Schneider, head of the Lutherans in Germany, seated in the chapel of the Protestant monastery of Erfurt; at right, leaving the building. Below first and second rows, Catholic and Protestant blessings at the end of the "service", to give the impression that both religions please God; third and fourth rows, exchanges of cordiality and posing for pictures.
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Photos from APE, Corbis, AFP, Getty & Internet

Posted October 9, 2011

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