LUND, Sweden — Jorge Bergoglio, also known as “Pope Francis,” marked the 499th anniversary of the Reformation on Monday with an ecumenical prayer gathering in Sweden, where he called for reconciliation between Lutherans and Roman Catholics.
According to reports, the head of the Lutheran World Federation, Bishop Munib Younan, was present for the event at the Lund Cathedral and the two signed an agreement vowing better dialogue between the two groups.
“As Catholics and Lutherans, we have undertaken a common journey of reconciliation,” Bergoglio said during the service. “Now, in the context of the commemoration of the Reformation of 1517, we have a new opportunity to accept a common path, one that has taken shape over the past fifty years in the ecumenical dialogue between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church.”
“We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another,” he stated.
Bergoglio said that Catholics and Lutherans should acknowledge their wrongs and move forward.
“We too must look with love and honesty at our past, recognizing error and seeking forgiveness, for God alone is our judge,” he opined. “Certainly, there was a sincere will on the part of both sides to profess and uphold the true faith, but at the same time we realize that we closed in on ourselves out of fear or bias with regard to the faith which others profess with a different accent and language.”
The Roman Catholic leader also praised Martin Luther as a positive figure who pointed others to the centrality of Scripture and man’s dependence on God.
As previously reported, the Protestant Reformation, which resulted in the counter-Reformation by the Jesuits, was sparked by Luther, a monk and scholar who served the Roman Catholic Church in Wittenburg, Germany.
As Luther began studying the Scriptures after he was appointed to a Chair of Biblical Theology, he became consumed with a passion to discover what it meant to be a Christian. In the Catholic Church, he had seen men trying to earn their way to Heaven, but as he read the Bible, he realized that salvation was through faith in Christ alone.
“I think I’ve found the truth at last,” the classic film “Martin Luther” depicts Luther as stating to a Church official. “By faith man lives and is righteous, not by what he does for himself, be it adoration of relics, singing of masses, pilgrimages to Rome, purchase of pardon for his sins, but by faith in what God has done for him already through His Son.”
Following the revelation, Luther began to challenge the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, compiling a list of 95 thesis where he asserted that Catholic doctrine contradicted the Scriptures. He was later summoned to appear before a meeting of the Church, and was declared a heretic and excommunicated.
Mike Gendron, a former Roman Catholic who leads Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries in Plano, Texas, told Christian News Network that the Vatican has not recanted its unbiblical doctrines to this day.
“Roman Catholicism has not changed,” he said. “There has been no repeal or revoking of the ‘infallible’ anathemas from the Council of Trent that condemn Protestants. There has been no reversal of the excommunication of Martin Luther.”
“The Catholic Church continues to sell indulgences in the form of Mass Cards for those suffering in purgatory,” Gendron outlined. “Catholics remain in bondage to religious deception after they die because their clergy cannot say how many Masses must be offered before they can be released from Purgatory.”
He noted that the Catholic Church “teaches and commands that the usage of indulgences—a usage most beneficial to Christians—should be kept in the Church, and it condemns with anathema those who say indulgences are useless or that the church does not have the power to grant them,” quoting from Vatican Council II, Sacred Liturgy, Chapter 4.
Gendron advised that division is, at times, biblical and necessary.
“Christians must remain sanctified by the truth of God’s Word and never suppress the differences that divide us from apostate churches,” he explained. “Divine division in truth is infinitely better than Satanic unity in error. The Lord Jesus came to divide believers from unbelievers by the truth of His Word. He said, ‘Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division (Luke 12:51-53).'”
“Evangelicals can never have unity with Catholics because we are divided on the essentials of the Gospel—how one is born again, how one is justified, who can mediate between God and man, and the efficacy, sufficiency and necessity of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Tragically, the Lutherans, who once embraced the truth of God’s Word, are now compromising that truth for the sake of unity with an apostate church. The Catholic Church, which embraces a false and fatal gospel, will never compromise its ‘infallible’ dogmas.”
The Swedish publication “The Local” notes, “The Swedish branch of the Lutheran Church is among the most liberal in the Christian family. The top archbishop has been a woman, Antje Jackelen, since 2013; it has ordained women pastors since 1960 and has openly lesbian and gay bishops…”