VSChristianity, a major world religion, stems from the life, teachings and death of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ or God’s Anointed in the 1st century common era. Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome. On February 27, 380, in Thessaloniki, the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius I (347 – 395) signed a decree in the presence of the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian-II which made Christianity the state religion and punished practicing pagan rituals. As the capital of the empire, Rome was the natural center of the growing church that gave a name to every bishop in an unbroken line dating back to the 1st century CE. Saint Peter was the first pope.
The Catholic Church weakened by the end of the Middle Ages by corruption, political struggles and humanist ideas. Many Catholics were appalled at the extreme worldliness and immorality in the Church where the selling of indulgences was rampant and the practice of simony enormous. Simony means the buying or selling of spiritual or sacred things such as ecclesiastical offices, pardons or consecrated objects. Much later, the Protestant Reformation began in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, a teacher and monk, published a document titled “Disputation on the Power of Indulgences, or 95 Theses” – a series of 95 ideas about Christianity that he invited people to discuss with him.
Catholics and Protestants worship the same God, but the tenets of their faith are different. Five hundred years after the Reformation, the divisions between Protestants and Catholics are still painful.
In Germany, the country of the Reformation, a deep animosity divided Christian Catholics and Protestants until a few decades ago. This division had been accentuated over the centuries through religious conflicts and wars.
Reform began 500 years ago when Martin Luther attempted to reform the Catholic Church. His attempt led to a schism in the church. On October 31, 1517, the publication of his ninety-five theses, which described various abusive practices of the Church, is considered the founding event that led to this division in Germany and the creation of the Evangelical Church. In the past, Protestant churches had celebrated major anniversaries of the Reformation by venerating Martin Luther as a hero; but in recent years this approach has changed. The Evangelical Church in Germany sought to transform the celebrations of “500 years of the Reformation” into a common celebration of Christ with the Catholic Church.
Through various demonstrations, the two camps paid homage to Martin Luther while underlining their will to overcome the divisions. On March 11, 2017, a central reconciliation service was held in the town of Hildesheim to jointly mark 500 years of the Reformation.
Fortunately, the focus in recent years has been to achieve a better understanding and find common ground between the two churches. However, a new united church is far from complete. To describe their relationship, the expression “reconciled diversity” is used on both sides. The fundamental differences between the two Christian communities:
Catholicism and Protestant Luther clarified that the Bible is the ‘Sola Skriptura, the only book of God, in which he provided his revelations to the people, which enabled them to enter into communion with him. Catholics, on the other hand, do not base their beliefs solely on the Bible. Besides the Holy Scriptures, they are further bound by the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics and Protestants have a different view of the nature of the Church. “Catholic” means “all-embracing”. The Catholic Church considers itself the only true Church in the world, under the leadership of the Pope. On the other hand, the Protestant churches that emerged from the Reformation, also called “evangelical” meaning “according to the Gospel”, do not constitute a single united Church. . Rather, there are several tens of thousands of different denominations around the world. Officially, all of these many churches are considered equal.
Protestants don’t care about papal primacy. This dogma contradicts the statements of the Bible. Catholics regard the Pope as the successor of the Apostle Peter, the first head of their Church, appointed by Jesus. The papal office justifies this by a supposedly unbroken chain of consecrations, stretching from the first century to the present day.
This continuous chain, known as apostolic succession, is significant for the various spiritual offices of the Catholic Church. With the sacrament of Holy Orders, bishops, priests and deacons receive a lifelong seal of God giving them sacramental authority over Catholics. But this consecration is given only to men. Protestants do not consecrate specific people to office, but rather accept the principle that the priesthood can be transferred to every believer, including women.
The spiritual views of Catholics are reflected in the Eucharist or Holy Communion, a rite commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples before his crucifixion. When consecrated by a priest in the name of Jesus, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. Non-Catholics cannot participate in Communion. In the protest church, every baptized person is invited to share and is allowed to lead the Lord’s Supper. This approach is not accepted by Catholics.
Moreover, the Eucharist has a different meaning for Catholics and Protestants. The bread, known as the Host, embodies Jesus and can therefore be prayed. For Protestants, the ritual only serves to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In the Roman Catholic Church, there are seven solemn rites, called sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Marriage, Penance, Holy Orders and Extreme Unction, all of which are believed to have been instituted by Jesus. . Most Protestant churches practice only two of these sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Roman Catholic Church venerates Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the “Queen of Heaven”. There are few biblical references to support these dogmas. These are rejected by Protestants although they believe that Mary was the mother of Jesus.
The Catholic Church also practices the veneration of saints through canonization. There are now over 4,000 saints. This veneration is also violently opposed by the Protestant Church as unbiblical. In the Catholic Church, celibacy is obligatory for priests. The Protestant Church rejects this obligation for priests. Martin Luther demanded its abolition in 1520. The former monk married a former nun Katharina von Bora only to please his father, annoy the Pope, make the angels laugh and the demons cry.
Interestingly today, most major industrialized countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and France, are Protestant. The three Western European Catholic countries of Italy, Spain and Portugal are very poor economies with huge debt burdens.
Although 50% of the world’s Christians are Catholic, Protestant communities reign supreme. Only the pope makes money from archaic traditional practices. He has long since ceased to be the sole master of the Christian world. But Vatican City is, of course, a great tourist destination today for Christians.