1517 – 2017: The Institute’s Implication in the Celebration in Southern Europe

The Luther Year of 2017 is finally drawing to a close. There were uncountable memorial events in countries across the world. For the Institute, the celebration in southern Europe was especially important. In these countries the Lutheran presence, if it’s there at all, is tiny at best.

The invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to the Institute to participate in a colloquium in March 2017 with the Theological Faculty of Thessaloniki has already been reported on. The Catholic church in the countries of southern Europe—Italy, Spain, and France—took similar initiatives. They turned to the Institute to help put thought into action.

In Spain, the Catholic church and its theologians asked the Institute to share in a colloquium at the University of Salamanca. Matthieu Arnold, André Birmelé, and Theodor Dieter took up this request. In addition, the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, Dr. Martin Junge, delivered a well-regarded lecture. For our Spanish friends, this offer was new territory indeed, in that the person of Luther, Luther research, and Lutheranism itself play no part in their everyday work. A volume with the documents will soon appear in Spanish in order to make the contributions of the colloquium available to the public.

Particularly impressive was one evening when the Salamanca faculty presented the Bach cantata “Jesus Christ Lay in Death’s Strong Bands.” The cantata was then sung a second time after a detailed theological exposition on its content, which comes from one of Luther’s hymns. Also moving was the closing worship service, which was the Lund Liturgy, led by the Archbishop of Salamanca and Martin Junge.

Another colloquium was organized by the Institute in cooperation with the Catholic University in Toulouse, France. It was a self-consciously ecumenical symposium to which Lutheran and Catholic theologians from all different francophone countries were invited. The theme was not the theology of Luther alone but also the ecumenical developments that have taken place in recent years. Thus Cardinal Koch, leader of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, gave the closing lecture in response to a lecture by André Birmelé. The contributions of this colloquium will also be published in due course.

It’s also worthwhile to mention some events that the Institute did not directly organized but still took part in. In Italy, the Bose community organized a colloquium in May with contributions from Matthieu Arnold and André Birmelé. The Conference of Italian Theology Professors invited André Birmelé to its annual meeting in September in Bologna. Worth noting is also the interest of Catholic orders, especially the Benedictines, in this commemoration. André Birmelé was invited to offer a great number of multi-day courses in various Catholic monastic communities (Pradines,  Prailles,  La Pierre qui Vire) as well as at various locations of the ecumenical community Chemin Neuf (Abbaye de Hautecombe, Abbaye des Dombes, Cartuja de Saragossa, and Berlin).

Some pictures of the Colloquium in Salamanca, Spain: