Christian Living

ChurchWatch 02/06/09

Pope Benedict XVI: 'Luther Was Right'

"Luther would have been amazed at the efforts of the Vatican today to put the Bible back into the heart of the Roman Catholic Church," writes Jeff Fountain of Christian Today.

Fountain reports that during Pope Benedict XVI's recent weekly public addresses in St. Peter's Square, he quoted Martin Luther in declaring "Sola fide," that salvation is by faith alone.

Pope Benedict XVIAccording to this report, Benedict affirmed that Luther had correctly translated Paul's words as 'justified by faith alone' -- the well known sola fide.

It was disagreement over the doctrine of salvation by faith that sparked the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, splitting Christianity in Western Europe. "Yet, said the Pope, it was indeed biblical to say, as did Luther, that it was the faith of a Christian, not his works that saved him."

By defining "faith" as "identification with Christ expressed in love for God and neighbor," Pope Benedict qualified his statement, noting that the Apostle Paul had written about such faith in his letters, especially the one to the Philippians.

According to Fountain, the Pope highlighted the fact that prior to his Damascus Road conversion, Paul had strictly adhered to all the Pharisaical laws and rules. However, after meeting the Lord Jesus in his vision, Paul began leading a lifestyle of faith alone.

Fountain goes on to explain that last October, bishops from around the world were called to Rome for a three-week synod to discuss how to promote prayerful reading, understanding and proclamation of God's Word. "Pope Benedict XVI himself kicked off the synod with a round-the-clock Bible reading marathon lasting a whole week, by reading the opening verses of Genesis. Twelve hundred readers took part, including Orthodox and Evangelical leaders."

"So now Benedict is personally leading the way to encourage Catholics to engage with Scripture," Fountain writes. "The theme of the synod was 'The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.' The pope told the gathered bishops that true reality was to be found in the Word of God."

According to Fountain, the Bible Society of the UK has been assisting the Vatican to promote the reading of Scripture through the Lectio Divina Project. This resource for Catholics provides notes and prayers to go with weekly lectionary readings of the Sunda Mass. You can download this resource at http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/l3.php?id=251.

Fountain tells how he flew to Switzerland recently for an interconfessional gathering of "Together for Europe." "Talk of the synod there prompted someone to quote Cardinal Kaspers' recent statement: 'The Word divided us; the Word must unite us.'"

"We began to dream about how Christians in Europe could celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 - less than nine years away - as a prophetic statement by Catholics and Protestants together that the Word that once divided us is now uniting us again."

Fountain concludes joyfully, "That would be a giant step toward the fulfilment of Luther's original dream of a Bible-centred Church!"

Read Jeff Fountain's full article, Luther, Rome and the Bible

Download the Lectio Divina Project: www.biblesociety.org.uk/lectio.

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