Indonesian Protestants who are marking the 5th centenary of the Protestant Reformation, have embraced Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, calling it a document that can significantly help mend ties among Christians in a country experiencing a surge in religious intolerance.
The Reformation was sparked by the publication on October 31, 1517 of the famous 95 theses by German Augustinian friar Martin Luther, in what he saw as the much needed reforms for the Catholic Church of his day. This 16th Reformation was the second major split in Christianity within the Western Church, after the so-called Great Schism of 1054 that split the followers of Christ into Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism.
During their celebrations in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Oct. 31, Indonesian Protestant leaders said the Pope’s 2013 Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” or “The Joy of the Gospel”, in which he has called on Churches to avoid blaming each other, has a special relevance in Indonesia as fears grow over rising intolerance in the country.
Nearly 100 Protestants, Catholics and Muslims attended the event.
Abandon condemnation, embrace mercy
“The invitation by Pope Francis in the document is very relevant, asking Churches to distant ourselves from blaming and slandering attitudes,” Rev. Henriette T. Lebang, chairwoman of Communion of Churches in Indonesia, said at the Oct. 31 gathering.
She said she was impressed with the Pope’s messages in the encyclical which inspire their theme for the 5th centenary celebration. One message, she said, is to “abandon the language of condemnation and embrace that of mercy.”
Stressing the importance that Pope Francis gives to unity among Christians, Rev. Lebang recalled the Pontiff’s visit to Lund, Sweden, last year on Oct. 31, where at the invitation of the Lutheran World Federation, he attended the inauguration of a year of activities marking the 5th centenary of the Protestant Reformation. In particular, they committed themselves to continue their ecumenical journey.
“I am not only impressed but also touched by the pope’s efforts to reconcile and build relationship with other Churches, and even other religions,” Lebang added.
Rev. Lebang encouraged Christians to use the 500th anniversary to build peace and reconciliation among Christian Churches. She also asked Protestant Churches to consider adopting the Catholic Church’s tradition of praying for peace and unity among Christians every third week of January. “Catholics in Indonesia follow this tradition each year, but not among Protestant Churches,” she said.
Franciscan Father Antonius Eddy Kristiyanto, a lecturer at the Jesuit’s Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta, said not everything that Martin Luther did was wrong. Luther, he said, even encouraged reform in the Catholic Church. “Martin Luther has even saved the Catholic Church, and pushed it to reformulate Church teachings,” he said. “It’s part of our history. Let’s move forward and reshape our relationship,” he urged.
Maria Isnawati, a Catholic participant, said Christianity in Indonesia is facing many challenges that need the unity of Churches. “We should increase ecumenism and focus on becoming salt and light for other people and don’t be fanatical about our Churches,” she said. (Source: UCAN)