A Lutheran perspective on the Pope’s visit to Germany

A Lutheran perspective on the Pope’s visit to Germany[1]

Pope Benedict XVI visited Germany September 22-25, 2011. Bishop Hans-Jőrg Voigt of the SELK, Lutheran Church–Canada’s partner church in Germany, took part in the ecumenical service of the Word held inErfurtwith the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Here the bishop describes the results of the papal visit. (Translation by Rev.Dr. John Stephenson, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, Ontario.)

Bishop Hans-Jőrg Voigt

The unity of the Church will come about through delving deeper into the truth of Holy Scripture and not through crafting theological compromises—we “independent” [i.e., confessional] Lutherans can only say “Yea and Amen” to this notion for belief founded on clear Scripture will sooner or later convict theological compromise formulas of their inadequacy. Conversely, common confessions forged through prayer and suffering have true staying power.

Immediately after the service I heard someone remark that the Pope had made no mention of Luther in the Augustinian monastery to which I responded that in this memorable place Benedict XVI had given a clear and straightforward testimony of faith that Luther himself would not find wanting. Later on in the proceedings the Pope did in fact subjoin the requisite “discussion” with Luther.

 My “take” on Benedict XVI’s visit toGermany:

A highly learned theologian fortified by the intrepid wisdom that comes with age here confronted with the Name of Jesus Christ, the devastating phenomenon of how the Church has marginalized herself by giving in, time after time, to expectations from the most varied (secular) quarters. As he did so, there was no lack of humour, even a dose of irony at his own expense, nor of a fitting measure of self-criticism, for example, with respect to the sexual abuse problem that has caused so much distress.

EKD Synod President Katrin Göring-Eckardt spoke of walls—of stone and of silence—that have been guarded for too long and that will crumble from inside. If she was targeting the Roman Catholic Church with this remark, then she was making an indirect comparison with the regime of the former German Democratic Republic. Surely Mrs Göring-Eckardt cannot have intended such a thing—that would be a quite improper insinuation!

Of course, I could here go on to list a whole host of open theological questions and zero in on our “No!” to the First Vatican Council’s teaching on the papal office, but to do so would not do justice to what actually happened, which was that, for a few days, Jesus Christ and the Christian faith were the number one topic in Germany. The members of our Federal Parliament, the Bundestag, were quite right to rise from their seats in a gesture of respect.

† Hans-Jörg Voigt


[1] Along with Pt André Schneider, who serves at Christ Church in Erfurt, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt officially represented our sister church, the SELK, at the ecumenical service held in Erfurt’s Augustinian Cloister on Friday September 23, 2011. The secular press gave much publicity to the Pope’s meeting at this historic site with “the German Lutherans,” failing to realise and make clear that the EKD (= “Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany”) is a coalition of three church bodies that enjoy communion with each other, namely, the Reformed, the United, and the Lutherans of the Territorial Churches (Landeskirchen). But even within the VELKD (=United Evangelical Church in Germany), “Lutherans” in our confessional sense of the word are today a rapidly vanishing, marginalized, and harassed minority. The commentary offered here in English translation appeared in the  September 28, 2011 issue of the online news service “selk_news”. JRS

One response to “A Lutheran perspective on the Pope’s visit to Germany”

  1. Guest says:

    Ok, it seems that now it is ok for LCC sister churches to take ”part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox
    congregations or of congregations of mixed confession…” as contrary to our very constitution. How can we calmly pray with an archenemy of the Gospel of grace alone such as the pope? Is unionism now ok for LCC?

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Posted By: Matthew Block
Posted On: September 29, 2011
Posted In: General, Headline, Insight,

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