On this day, October 31, Protestant churches around the world celebrated the 500 years of reformation as initiated by Martin Luther. For centuries, the Protestant movement has reshaped the world’s civilization and changed the culture. However, why can’t the Catholic Church accept the movement after five centuries?
The Reformation culminated on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther sent an open letter to the Archbishop of Mainz, Germany, Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg. In his letter, Luther questioned and disputed the sale of indulgences by the Church’s authority to their congregation. The indulgence in the Catholic Church is a teaching about the facility to reduce the punishment for sin in the after death purification, called purgatory.
In his disputation entitled “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” Martin Luther questioned the practice of indulgence sales in Catholic Churches. He simply intended his letter to be a scholarly one, and to further make his point, he also nailed the letter, also known as “The 95 Theses,” to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
Martin Luther asserted that justification is the work of God alone, based on the individual’s faith alone as written in the Scripture. Based on his study of the Scripture, he pointed out the errors in the teaching of purgatory and indulgence as taught by Catholic Church.
Pope Leo X responded to Martin Luther’s disputation by issuing an official decree of Catholic Church in June 1520, pointing out errors in Luther’s theses. Subsequently, an assembly was called in the city of Worms, Germany to address Luther’s disputation.
The assembly was known as Diet of Worms, that took place from April 16 to 18, 1521. The result of the assembly condemned Martin Luther as a heretic. Furthermore, Catholic Church had also planned to arrest and kill him. However, Prince Frederick III of Saxony was in favor of Luther and helped him escape.
Following the Diet of Worms, Reformation flourished all across Europe. Catholic Church responded to the movement harshly and crushed the reformers. Supporters of Martin Luther were arrested and burned at the stake, such as Johann Esch, Heinrich Voes, and the Huguenots. But that did not stop the Reformation movement to place the highest authority on the Scripture alone. The movement later spread across the Europe and the world, changing human civilization.
After 500 years, the Catholic Church is still unwilling to acknowledge the Biblical truth about salvation by grace (Sola Gracia), based on the justification by faith (Sola Fide) with the authority of scripture alone (Sola Scriptura), as pointed out by Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.
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