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The Catholic Counter-Reformation Is Over


Now we wait and hope for a reunion of all Christians

News that Pope Francis will travel to Sweden in October for an event marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation underlines the fact that the Catholic Counter-Reformation is over. Whether Protestants are prepared to say the same about the Reformation is for them to decide. A Catholic can only hope.

To say that these two momentous movements, Reformation and Counter-Reformation, are over is certainly not to deny their lasting impact on religion and the world. But except for isolated pockets of resistance on both sides, Catholic-Protestant hostility is today a thing of the past.

This relationship is in a new era and has been for some time. The October 31 commemorative event Pope Francis will attend in Lund, Sweden, is testimony to that.

It was on October 31, 1517, that an obscure monk and theology professor named Martin Luther posted 95 theses — on a church door, so it’s said — setting out his views on controverted religious issues of that day. The ceremony in Lund, site of the founding of the Lutheran World Federation, will mark the opening of the anniversary year.

The general secretary of the Lutheran federation, Martin Junge, describes its approach to the anniversary as “ecumenical accountability.” Catholic Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, a convert from Lutheranism, voices hope that the gathering in Lund will help Lutherans and Catholics be “witnesses of Jesus Christ and his gospel in our secularized world” — a redirection of religious energy from fighting each other to presenting a united front against a common adversary.

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