The official celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation begin on Monday with gestures of religious reconciliation, or ecumenism as it is technically known.
This begins with a joint service of Protestants and Catholics in Berlin and a visit of Pope Francis to Sweden.
Up until Reformation Day next year, the Lutheran Church in Germany (EKD) will commemorate the 95 Theses of 1517 with hundreds of events.
A service in Berlin’s Marienkirche will be led by the head of the EKD, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, the EKD ambassador for the Reformation Anniversary, Margot Käßmann, and Berlin’s Catholic archbishop, Heiner Koch.
German President Joachim Gauck will deliver the inauguration speech later on Monday at the subsequent opening ceremony in the Konzerthaus Berlin.
The church service will be broadcast live on ARD at 3pm, and the opening ceremony on ZDF from 5.10pm.
At the same time, the Pope is on a visit to southern Sweden for Reformation Day.
In the cathedral of the university city of Lund, 600 Lutherans and Catholics will join in prayer led by Pope Francis and the president of the Lutheran World Federation, Bishop Munib Younan.
From now until the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses on October 31st 2017, there will be hundreds of events, with the programme including lectures and theatre performances.
The head of the EKD Bedford-Strohm has spoken before in favour of closer relations between Catholics and Protestants, and believes that the Reformation commemorations provide a chance to do this. In line with the Pope’s message, he spoke of “reconciling the differences”.
He said that the Pope’s visit to Lund will give out a strong ecumenical signal.
“I hope that it will encourage people in the future to sit around the communion table together.”
October 31st 1517 is seen as the birth of the Reformation. On this day, the Augustinian monk and theologian Martin Luther published his 95 theses on indulgences and penitence.
This protest not only threatened the financial system of the Catholic Church, but also secular leaders, who profited from the sale of indulgences.
Both the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor tried to bring Luther into line, but his teachings found ever more followers, finally resulting in the Protestant Church’s split from the Catholics.