Faith Matters

Reconciling the Reformation

Archbishop of Armagh Dr Eamon Martin

ARCHBISHOP of Armagh Dr Eamon Martin has offered three ways of 'bridging' the Reformation differences between the Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations.

Speaking in Saint Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh at a service to mark the 500th anniversary of Luther's 95 Theses, Dr Martin said that the Reformation could be "reconciled" by emphasising the importance of friendship and trust, a shared encounter with Christ in the sacred scriptures and in prayer and by strengthening "our shared Christian witness on the island of Ireland".

"Sometimes we underplay the extent of agreement that exists across our traditions on key doctrinal issues, including the core issue of justification which triggered so much of the polemic and mutual condemnations of the Reformation period," he said.

"That is, of course, not to deny that there remain important differences between us - for example over issues like Church, Eucharist, ministry and the papacy.

"However, changing the paradigm from disagreement and difference to one of friendship and trust, frees up our theologians to debate and clarify the areas of difference that merit deeper understanding and dialogue."

He noted that his Church of Ireland counterpart in Armagh, Archishop Richard Clarke, often says "that we should try to do together those things which we feel we do not have to do separately".

One effect of the Reformation was that "Christians rediscovered the centrality of God's Word in the life and mission of the Church", said Dr Martin.

"Through shared study of God's word, combined with prayerful reading and reflection, the Holy Spirit can guide us to overcome prejudice and promote greater harmony and understanding," he said.

Shared Christian witness should be strengthened, he said.

"Our wounded world needs so much to be healed and enlightened by the Gospel, and we are all called to be prophetic in shining the light and truth of the Gospel into some of the trickiest and most sensitive issues of our time," he said.

He rejected the idea that Christians should save their faith for the privacy of their homes and places of worship, and stay out of the public square.

"Our faith in God's love for us, and our personal relationship with Jesus compels us to participate in the public sphere," said Dr Martin.

"I am convinced that in the midst of an increasingly secular world, we in the various Christian traditions are called to combine our efforts out of our 'certain hope' for the world."

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Faith Matters