This is going to be published in my local Catholic parish's bulletin this week.


Wednesday, April 26 @ 7:00pm

In honor of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation,

St. John’s Lutheran Church will host an ecumenical vesper service. Congregations in Evansville will gather to embrace our commonalities. Ministers from the various congregations will be discussing our similarities and differences regarding Holy Baptism and Holy Communion in a relaxed atmosphere, followed by refreshments. This event is in collaboration with our partner congregations in Evansville. The whole community is invited; invite your friends and neighbors of all faith traditions!

Has anything changed in the last 500 years that Catholics should be commemorating the Reformation?

For some odd reason I thought we were against that...

  • This sounds more like an ad written by the Lutheran congregation, not necessarily endorsed by the Catholic Church generally or locally. Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 16:02
  • @Matt I think you're right, but it's gonna be published in my Parish's bulletin this Sunday. I guess my question is A.) Should they publish it and B.) Should anyone from the Catholic parish go.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 16:07
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    Ecumenism sure, Celebrating the Catholic Reformation, sure, Celebrating Luthers Revolt and calling it Reformation, oh my... Catholics beware.
    – Marc
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 16:19
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    @marc this puts in in perspective a bit...
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 16:22
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    Peter, I'd celebrate for two reasons. One, because I was born American, and the Protestant cultural ethic was a core value in the founding of our nation. Two, the Reformation forced the Catholic Church to begin to take seriously the question "what do you believe?" which led to the Council of Trent, and a catechism, ... I can see how Bavarian Catholics might not likewise celebrate ... Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 19:22

4 Answers 4


Merriam-Webster define commemorate as:

  1. to call to remembrance: St. Andrew is commemorated on November 30.

  2. to mark by some ceremony or observation; observe: commemorate an anniversary

  3. to serve as a memorial of: a plaque that commemorates the battle

In this sense, we cannot be opposed to commemorating (particularly in sense 1) the Reformation, lest we forget its causes and allow it to happen again.

As a Catholic, though, I would be opposed to leaving "in honor of the 500th Anniversary"; I might replace it with "in memory of the 500th Anniversary," since, as others have pointed out, we cannot honor a wound to the unity of the Church, however much Luther and Calvin might have thought it necessary.

That being said, ecumenical dialogue is something required of the Church by virtue of it being Church:

  1. The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided.Cf. I Cor 1:13 Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature. — Unitatis Redintegratio

So, in a sense, we as Church are required to attend such events and go seek restoration of the unity that Christ preached, because without our cooperation, it will not fall down on our laps.



Protestants hold several heresies; e.g., they deny

  • the ministerial priesthood

  • the sacrificial nature of the Mass

  • the necessity of good works and not faith alone for salvation

  • the papacy

  • the Immaculate Conception

  • etc. (see this: "Heresy in Protestantism")

If a Catholic pertinaciously celebrates / assents to heresy, he at best commits a mortal sin and at worst is also excommunicated (cf. this).

cf. Facts about Luther by Msgr. Patrick F. O'Hare, LL.D.

  • To be fair, according to that definition of heresy, the Catholic church holds several heresies. Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 18:02
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    Can you provide evidence that "celebrating" a heresy is a mortal sin (including grave matter, consent of will, and awareness of wrongdoing)? Further, is this really what the extract being questioned asks for? Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 18:09
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    I have a Problem with the "Heresy of Protetantism" Link. Protestants are faithful to their beliefs, they simply are not Catholic beliefs. They cannot be heretics (Material Heretics) unless they have come from the Catholic Church as the the Revolters had. Protestants of today are not responsible for the substantive nature of their Heresy. they are truly in the dark and unless they are brought into the truth they will be judged as those outside it. Other than that objection, this is a good answer. There are limits to Ecumenism, this sounds like it might be pushing a Protestant agenda.
    – Marc
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 18:13
  • @jlaverde No, please go to chat if you would like me to explain where you are mis informed.
    – Marc
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 18:15
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    @curiousdanni Dogmas are defined when they need to be. Until the protestant revolt, even Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception, the resulting effect of his new doctrine of Faith Alone, slowly but increasingly, picked away at organic beliefs that existed in the Church. It was then, that the Church had do Dogmatize the challenged doctrines, as it was then that the organic understandings was challenged by those who had fallen away and attempt to drag other Catholics with them.
    – Marc
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 12:48

It seems that Catholics are permitted to commemorate the 500 anniversary since the Reformation. Although the Catholic Church may not agree with many things that the Reformation brought about, it is an excellent opportunity for the Church to promote Christian unity. Ut Unum Sint 'That they may be one'. Praying for Christian unity is most commendable, even for us Catholics.

Pope Francis himself was at the ecumenical events in Lund and Malmö, in Sweden, on the 31st of October, 2016 as a sign for the need of Christian unity.

Pope Francis, LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge will lead the common prayer service in Lund and the event in Malmö in cooperation with leaders from Church of Sweden and the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm.

“There is power when communities find their way out of conflict. In Christ we are encouraged to serve together in this world. The joint commemoration is a witness to the love and hope we all have because of the grace of God,” LWF President Younan and General Secretary Junge say.

Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity explains further: “By concentrating together on the centrality of the question of God and on a Christocentric approach, Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility of an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, not simply in a pragmatic way, but in the deep sense of faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ.”

Bishop Anders Arborelius of the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm adds, “History will be written when Pope Francis and the LWF leaders visit Lund and Malmö to encourage all of us to go further on the road towards Christian unity.” - Preparations to commemorate 500 years since the Reformation, 01.06.2016 (Vatican Website).

Joint Ecumenical Commemoration of the Reformation

Kurt Cardinal Koch (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity), Bishop Dr. Munib Younan (LWF President), Pope Franics and Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, lead the Common Prayer in Lund Cathedral on 31 October 2016. Photo: Church of Sweden/Magnus Aronson


Canon 64 of the Apostolic Canons:

If any clergyman or layman shall enter into a synagogue of Jews or heretics to pray, let the former be deposed and let the latter be excommunicated.

I believe that these Canons still have force within the Roman Catholic Church (the link is to a Catholic web site), but I cannot find them on the Vatican web site.

I suppose if no one prays at the event, it would be ok for Roman Catholics (and Orthodox) to attend.

  • That does not match with current Latin or Eastern Rite canon law. It may have at the time the linked article was published. Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 18:11
  • That's interesting. The Apostolic Canons still have force within the Eastern Orthodox Church.
    – guest37
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 18:12
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    Can. 6 §1. When this Code takes force, the following are abrogated: 1º the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1917; 2º other universal or particular laws contrary to the prescripts of this Code unless other provision is expressly made for particular laws; 3º any universal or particular penal laws whatsoever issued by the Apostolic See unless they are contained in this Code; 4º other universal disciplinary laws regarding matter which this Code completely reorders. - 1983 CODE OF CANON LAW
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 13:10
  • So that would include the Canons of the first Ecumenical Councils as well?
    – guest37
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 13:15
  • Catholics can always pray with our separated brethren, we can not celebrate the Eucharist together, since that demands unity!
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 13:15

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