Remembering history with an openness to the future. Lutherans and Catholics to jointly mark 500th anniversary of Luther’s excommunication

24 Jan 2020


The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) held their annual joint staff meeting on 14 January in Geneva. LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge and PCPCU President Kurt Cardinal Koch co-chaired the meeting at the LWF Communion Office.

At the meeting, the LWF and the PCPCU agreed to jointly mark the 500th anniversary of the excommunication of Luther, which happened in 1521.

In the spirit of the pledge of Catholics and Lutherans to continue moving from conflict to communion, the joint event will bring into focus the important ecumenical developments of recent times. It will outline how the ecumenical journey of recent decades has made it possible to relate to a painful moment in history with an openness towards the gift of unity, for which Lutherans and Catholics continue to pray and work.

The event will take place in Rome and will include a liturgical service. To express this ecumenical openness, it will take place on 25 June 2021, in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, which was presented on that date in 1530.

Speaking about this joint plan, the LWF General Secretary Junge reflected: “History cannot be undone. Yet, as believers, we can rely on the gifts of understanding, healing and reconciliation to continue shaping the relationship between Catholics and Lutherans. We will remember the events that took place five centuries ago, yet we will not remain in the past but embrace the future into which God continues to call us.”

In his reflections, PCPCU President Koch said: "We cannot erase what has happened, but we must pay attention, so that the burden of the past does not make the future impossible. When we, after 500 years, look back on the Diet of Worms and Luther's excommunication, we do not return to conflict on our way to communion. Rather, we want to continue on the path of reconciliation."

In their annual staff meetings, LWF and PCPCU update each other on major developments, discuss their bilateral process and envision specific plans for joint work.