Stop prejudice, forgive sins of past, pope urges Christians

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Serious research on Martin Luther
can help heal relations between Catholics and Protestants, highlight what was
legitimate about the Reformation and pinpoint the errors and sins that led to the
division of the church, Pope Francis said.

“Today, as Christians, all of us are called to put
behind us all prejudice toward the faith that others profess with a different
emphasis or language, to offer one another forgiveness for the sins committed
by those who have gone before us, and together to implore from God the gift of
reconciliation and unity,” he said.

The pope spoke March 31 to about 150 people taking part
in an international congress organized by the Pontifical Committee for
Historical Sciences. The congress, held March 29-31, discussed the theme,
“Luther: 500 Years Later. A Rereading of the Lutheran Reformation in the
Historical, Ecclesial Context.”

The pope told the participants that his first reaction to
hearing about “this praiseworthy initiative” was one of gratitude to
God and “a certain surprise, since not long ago a meeting like this would
have been unthinkable.”

“Catholics and Lutherans together, discussing
Luther, at a meeting organized by an office of the Holy See — truly we are
experiencing the results of the working of the Holy Spirit, who overcomes every
obstacle and turns conflicts into occasions for growth in communion,” he

Pope Francis said he was pleased the commemoration of the
500th anniversary of the Reformation offered this occasion to jointly study
such past events.

“Serious research into the figure of Luther and his
critique of the church of his time and the papacy certainly contributes to
overcoming the atmosphere of mutual distrust and rivalry that for all too long
marked relations between Catholics and Protestants,” he said.

“An attentive and rigorous study, free of prejudice
and polemics, enables the churches, now in dialogue, to discern and receive all
that was positive and legitimate in the Reformation, while distancing
themselves from errors, extremes and failures, and acknowledging the sins that
led to the division,” the pope said.

While the past cannot be changed, he said, 50 years of
dialogue means there can be “a purification of memory,” which is
“to tell that history differently,” in a way that is “free of
any lingering trace of the resentment over past injuries that has distorted our
view of one another.”

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