Pope pays homage to Luther's 'passion'
Pope Benedict XVI praised Martin Luther's "deep passion and driving force" and called for unity between the Catholic and Protestant faiths in the face of a "frightening" new evangelism as he visited the birthplace of the Lutheran church in eastern Germany yesterday.
Visiting the monastery in Erfurt where Luther lived before his ideas started the Reformation, he launched a thinly veiled attack on the evangelical and Pentecostal churches which have been attracting converts from more established faiths, especially in developing countries.
"Faced with a new form of Christianity, spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations seem at a loss," the Pope said.
"This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and little stability.
"This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse?"
The 84-year-old Pontiff paid tribute to Luther, the theologian who disputed Catholic tenets, sparking a split among German Christians that led to the creation of the Lutheran church.
He said: "What constantly exercised him was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life's journey." But he deflected appeals to relax rules barring Protestants from receiving the Catholic eucharist, after Germany's top Protestant bishop urged the Vatican to take "real steps for reconciliation" ahead of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. Many Protestants would like to mark the event with Catholic participation.
In the afternoon, the Pontiff travelled to Etzelsbach in the former East Germany to honour those Catholics who helped to resist communist rule.
The Pontiff started the day in Berlin with a private Mass and meetings with leaders from Germany's Muslim community. He met with Jewish leaders on Thursday, before celebrating a Mass in Berlin that attracted about 70,000 faithful from across the nation and beyond.
In the closed-door meeting, Benedict told more than a dozen Muslim leaders that he understood the "great importance" Muslims placed on the religious dimension of life and emphasised the importance of values shared by both religions in an increasingly secularised society.
Aiman Mazyek, chairman of Germany's Central Council of Muslims, welcomed Benedict's message of increased Muslim-Christian dialogue as an "important and friendly sign". (© Daily Telegraph, London)