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 CNS Story:

VATICAN-LUTHER Mar-10-2008 (330 words) With photos. xxxi

Vatican spokesman calls rumors of rehabilitation of Luther groundless

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Rumors that the Vatican is set to rehabilitate Martin Luther, the 16th-century leader of the Protestant Reformation, are groundless, said the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

News reports in early March alleged that Pope Benedict XVI was dedicating a planned September symposium with former doctoral students to re-evaluating Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy.

The story "does not have any foundation, insofar as no rehabilitation of Luther is foreseen," Father Lombardi told the Italian news agency ANSA March 8.

Vatican officials said the topic of the pope's annual summer gathering of former students this year has not yet been decided. Of the two topics under consideration, Luther is not one of them, one official told Catholic News Service.

Excesses in 16th-century preaching about indulgences and in Catholic penitential practices sparked Luther, a theologian and Augustinian monk, to seek reform in the church. His concerns started a movement that led to the Protestant Reformation.

The church excommunicated Luther for preaching a philosophy doubting the pope's infallibility.

Luther emphasized the absolute primacy of God's action in freeing people from sin and making them just, and the total sufficiency of Christ's death to expiate the sins of all.

In 1983, Pope John Paul II noted that studies by Lutheran and Catholic researchers "have led to a more complete and more differentiated image of the personality of Luther" as well as the complicated historical factors surrounding his life.

Nearly 500 years after the Reformation began in 1517, Lutherans and Catholics resolved one of the issues that began the Reformation era when they signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999.

The declaration said the churches' consensus on basic truths means that the doctrine of justification is not a church-dividing issue for Catholics and Lutherans even though differences between them remain in language, theological elaboration and emphasis surrounding those basic truths.

END


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