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Evangelical pastor meets Pope Francis in Rome

By on Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Pope Francis receives a book from Dr Nikolaus Schneider

Pope Francis receives a book from Dr Nikolaus Schneider

The head of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Dr Nikolaus Schneider, has said he is hopeful for future Christian unity after meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Dr Schneider had been scheduled to meet Pope Benedict XVI during an early April trip to Rome. Instead, he spent about 30 minutes with Pope Francis on Monday in the papal library in the Apostolic Palace.

“I hope a Pope who shows himself so close to the poor and the suffering also shows his understanding of couples who share everything except Communion,” he told reporters. In Germany where tens of thousands of Catholics are married to Protestants, broader permission to receive Communion in each others’ churches is something many people have been seeking for years.

The pastor, who is a member of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, praised the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for his important contributions to the 1999 Catholic-Lutheran theological agreement on justification, the dispute at the heart of the Protestant Reformation; and he described as “historic” Pope Benedict’s decision in 2011 to visit the former Augustinian monastery where Luther lived until 1511.

But he said the German-born Pope also “offended” Protestants when, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he insisted in 2000 that Protestant communities were not “churches in the proper sense” because they have not preserved apostolic succession among their bishops, nor a traditional understanding of the mystery of the Eucharist.

In the run-up to Pope Benedict’s visit to Germany in 2011, hopes had been raised that he either would lift the 500-year-old excommunication of Martin Luther or would make it much easier for a Lutheran married to a Catholic to receive communion in the Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict knew of the expectations. In the Augustinian monastery where Luther had lived, he said conjecture about him making an “ecumenical gift” demonstrated a “political misreading of faith and of ecumenism.”

Progress in Christian unity is not like negotiating a treaty, he told his fellow Germans. Ecumenism will advance when Christians enter more deeply into their shared faith and profess it more openly in society, he said.

Dr Schneider said he expects the emphasis on Christian unity being built on a common faith in Christ to continue under Pope Francis, and he hopes that it also can be the basis for joint a Catholic-Lutheran celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.

But Catholic leaders, including Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, have questioned the extent to which the communities can or should “celebrate” an event that caused a major divide among Christians and, in Europe, led to bloodshed.

Dr Schneider told reporters that Protestants regret the “death and division” that followed the Reformation, “but the motive wasn’t the theses of Luther, he wanted a return to Christ and to the Bible, and we can’t help but rejoice over that.”

Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the two leaders’ conversation about ecumenism “also focused particularly on the value of the ‘ecumenism of the martyrs,’ which the pope gives particular weight to, knowing the suffering” shared by Catholics and Protestants who refused to betray their Christian faith under the Nazis in Germany.

“The blood spilled by the martyrs is something that profoundly unites different Christian confessions in a common witness of Christ,” Fr Lombardi said.

We have updated this story to reflect the fact that Dr Nikolaus Schneider is not, as we originally reported, a Lutheran, but rather a member of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland

  • Sister S

    Your links are biased Protestant sources and are not objective.

  • Sister S

    It’s a fact that luther had the same issues in the church he set up. As for focussing on people’s actions. You are the one’s thats been doing this non-stop.

  • Sister S

    Have you even read Luther?

  • Sister S

    You keep referring to other’s peoples views on the bible. This is extra-biblical,

  • Sister S

    Luther and others agreed that it was the church and not just each individual Christian that interpreted the Bible. This is a theory that came much later on.

    Did you know that there were more than 4 Gospels, and that the church had to decide which ones were inspired, and that if it was not for early church councils, we would all be Arians or gnostics.

  • Dr Falk

    Isn’t Catholicism a social religion? I may be not understanding what you mean by social religion. Perhaps you can elaborate?

  • scary goat

    Thanks Dr. Falk, but I wasn’t really looking for advice for myself. I was more interested in how you discern where you think the Holy Spirit is at work or not as the case may be.

  • Dr Falk

    Please send me comments directly so I can address them. I will do the same to you. I asked you not for a home made definition but an canonical one. I asked it because if you found canonical definitions they would mention that heresy is accompanied by obstinacy. It is not just the denial of a doctrine. One of the most eminent 17th century theologians Cardinal De Lugo who the Catholic Encyclopedia calls ‘one of the most eminent theologians of modern times’ writes ‘ Everybody admits that obstinacy is required for someone to be a heretic’ ( Disputationes Schloasticae et Morales ). If you wish to accuse or say someone is a heretic denial of belief is not enough. You must establish pertinacy. Canonical and theological authorities such as Merkelbach, Genic and St Alphonsus Ligouri also say this. So you must establish this in order to call someone a heretic.

  • Dr Falk

    Why are you interested in how I discern the spirits?

  • Tridentinus

    Exactly, the prevailing law of the period and for centuries was ‘cujus princeps ejus religio’, your Civil Ruler decided what religion you followed. Without the support of the North German Princes for their heretical churchmen the Reformation would have been no more than an historical blip and Luther would have followed Hus to the pyre.

    I remember reading ‘The Stripping of the Altars’ many years ago. Whilst Protestantism had infected what we might call the ‘chattering classes’ of the day, Eamon Duffy was absolutely right in his assertion that the English had no stomach for Henry’s new church and its reforms.

    St. Thomas (II-II:11:1) defines heresy: “a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas”. “The right Christian faith consists in giving one’s voluntary assent to Christ in all that truly belongs to His teaching. There are, therefore, two ways of deviating from Christianity: the one by refusing to believe in Christ Himself, which is the way of infidelity, common to Pagans and Jews; the other by restricting belief to certain points of Christ’s doctrine selected and fashioned at pleasure, which is the way of heretics. The subject-matter of both faith and heresy is, therefore, the deposit of the faith, that is, the sum total of truths revealed in Scripture and Tradition as proposed to our belief by the Church. The believer accepts the whole deposit as proposed by the Church; the heretic accepts only such parts of it as commend themselves to his own approval. The heretical tenets may be ignorance of the true creed, erroneous judgment, imperfect apprehension and comprehension of dogmas: in none of these does the will play an appreciable part, wherefore one of the necessary conditions of sinfulness–free choice–is wanting and such heresy is merely objective, or material. On the other hand the will may freely incline the intellect to adhere to tenets declared false by the Divine teaching authority of the Church. The impelling motives are many: intellectual pride or exaggerated reliance on one’s own insight; the illusions of religious zeal; the allurements of political or ecclesiastical
    power; the ties of material interests and personal status; and perhaps
    others more dishonourable. Heresy thus willed is imputable to the
    subject and carries with it a varying degree of guilt; it is called formal, because to the material error it adds the informative element of “freely willed”. (The Catholic Encyclopedia),

    It would seem that this describes the Reformation to a T.

  • scary goat

    Well, why wouldn’t I be interested? You were talking about the Holy Spirit blowing where He wills not where we think He should….so I was wondering how you discern where He might be blowing, or not as the case may be.

  • Benedict Carter

    Well Alan, sorry but you’ve walked right into this one.

    Vatican I defined Papal Infallibility – infallibly.

    Both John XXIII and Paul VI more than once publicly stated that nothing in Vatican II would be, or was, infallible (other of course than its references to dogmas already defined) as the purpose of the Council was other. I can quote you their words if you like.

    So there are grades of teaching even in a Council. Vatican II is all wind and policy, nothing else, and can be ignored.

    In fact, let’s tell it how it is, shall we?

    It has been ignored almost totally in its detail from Day One by those who are its supposed greatest champions. Almost nothing that we have now can be seen in the DETAIL of the Council’s documents.

    I know liberals cannot bear facts, as your attitude to everything is all feelings and well – more feelings, but facts are facts, aren’t they?

  • Dr Falk

    My discernment alarm bells are ringing loudly at your question and now your reply so I think I’ll follow their indications and let this one go. If you are really interested in discernment as I said you can go to the standard authorities as a starting point.

  • Benedict Carter

    If you don’t know what I am talking about, you really haven’t been paying much attention to what’s been going on in the Church these past fifty years.

    As to the Catechsim, a new religion needed a new Code of Canon Law and a new Catechism. It got both.

  • scary goat

    Thank you :-)

  • Guest

    I agree, what can we expect from them (SDA), they are anti-Catholic deep inside as their “prophetess” E White.

  • The Great Stalin

    Comrade Scary, you tried to pin the Wrecker of Soviet Agriculture down, he sensed he was cornered and retreated!!!! He hasn’t got a clue either about Marxist Theory or about discernment of spirits!!!! Just spouts jargon!!!!

  • Brandall

    Sometimes, I become too emotionally involved in a subject and find it’s best to walk away. Do you ever feel that way?

  • Brandall

    No thanks but I appreciate the offer.

  • Brandall

    Aside from Catholic doctrine, condoms encourage promiscuity. Can you argue with that?

    The ends do not justify the means. Some things are either right or they are wrong. In some matters, there is only black or white.

    btw, how did we get from a dialog among denominations to child abuse and condoms?

  • Sister S

    Yes, thank you.

  • Dan Amo

    Propaganda alert: Martyrs’ blood was being shed in Europe following the Reformation, but by whom?!…Does the word, “Inquisitions” mean anything?! Revelations 17:6 says “I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.” ROME is not finished shedding blood; and, the betrayal of the ages is to suggest that Bride of Christ can be united to the Harlot Queen of Babylon. Their blood will be avenged by the Lamb upon the throne!

  • AlanP

    So, I think you are claiming that the 1994 Catechism, the official “reference book” for 1.2 million Catholics, is wrong. A pretty big claim. Do you think any Pope of the past 50 years would agree?

  • AlanP

    Facts are certainly facts, but we are all to some extent driven by our feelings in determining what the facts are. You as much as anyone, I would suggest.

  • scary goat


  • scary goat

    Hi Con….a few words please, if you don’t mind. Firstly, this is a pretty conservative Catholic site that you have wandered into, telling all the local residents that they are doing it wrong. I am sure you have found it difficult here, but please bear in mind also that no-one knew your age group till you mentioned exams (I am assuming you are a youngster?) There are always some pretty heated arguments going on in here, and it is not personal to you.

    As Dr. Falk said, of course you are welcome to stay here….but if you do a bit less trashing the beliefs of others you will probably find people are less defensive.

    It is good for a (youngster?) to be taking religion seriously….but a little word of advice (from a very old goat) ….keep an open mind, look around, and try to see more than one point of view. Don’t let people tell you what to believe…get the info and think about it yourself. I am assuming you are looking for the truth? Don’t believe the first “truth-salesman” you come across….there are many of them. Jesus and the Bible are a good place to start, of course they are….but the Catholic Church also has the Bible, and anyone who tells you we don’t use it isn’t being entirely honest. Did you know that the readings at Mass complete all 4 Gospels in a period of 3 years?

    When I come across something new of interest I find it useful to read what I have been given….then find the opposing opinion and read that too. Then I come to my own conclusions. There is some wisdom in the saying “don’t believe everything you see and less than half of what you hear”.

    Also, it is not always the person with the biggest smile who has all the answers. It might just be that the grumpy old man who is telling you what you don’t want to hear might have your best interests at heart.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    “The blood spilled by the martyrs is something that profoundly unites
    different Christian confessions in a common witness of Christ,” Father
    Lombardi said.

    Father Lombardi, you are giving us hope. THANK YOU. Keep it going and let us move away from the historical, POLITICAL DIVISIONS, and get united in JESUS THE LORD.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    PLEASE seeing things only in black and white is only the easy way.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    ARGUMENTS are not the means usually to get to TRUTH.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP


  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    Protestant Vs. Catholic; this Vs. that; Traditionalist Vs. Progressive; etc, etc. are proudly upheld and promoted by the god who sows DIVISIONS.

    Anybody who is fixed in one of these divisions taking it for doing What Jesus the Lord wants is only suffering from illusions.

  • James M

    Since there is only one Church – according to the NT anyway – anyone who leaves it is not in it, but is working against it. Luther left it.

  • James M

    SDAs are notorious for their opposition to the CC, and for their anti-Catholic interpretations of Daniel & Revelation.

  • James M

    His degree wot ‘e got is miles be”er van ve poppycock wot vese ‘ere ‘erryticks go burblin on abaht, innit ?

  • Dr Falk

    thanks – hope you are well.

  • Dr Falk

    I agree totally. Back to Jesus. Back to His example. We all need to be evangelised and re evangelised daily.


    Celebrate the Protestant Reformation? A shame! How can we celebrate heresy and schism? If anything, we should have a day of penance and pray the Rosary and Our Lady for their reunion with the one Church Jesus Christ founded.

  • Thomas Gallagher

    Bravo, Mr. Hart. I’m dismayed that six people have responded negatively to your most accurate comment. Perhaps it shows that all too many Catholics have an historically immature and inaccurate picture of the history of the Church? Father Joseph Lortz, who wrote several works on the history of the Church and of the Reformation, in the triumphalist old days before the Second Vatican Council, and who profoundly influenced the Council Fathers in their view of ecumenical cooperation with other Churches, reminds us that on the eve of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church had become so corrupt that it was–quite literally–unbelievable.

  • Thomas Gallagher

    Look at this: 31 positive replies so far! Catholic Triumphalism, alive and well. But seriously, if we want them to come back, we must show them the beauty of our liturgy, the moral steadfastness of our teaching, the kind and welcoming spirit of our members. It will do no good to say to them “Come back, sorted.” Let’s try, scary goat, to remember that the Prodigal Son was welcomed with feasting and rejoicing.

  • Dr Falk

    Thank you Father. I think we agree that we all need to return to the example and love of Jesus – being infected by that spirit and life is what we all need. Hope this finds you well.

  • Dr Falk

    thanks Father. Have a good weekend.

  • scary goat

    How, exactly, are we supposed to show them these things if they don’t come back to see it? And you will see in a comment further down the thread I have mentioned the welcome they would receive if they came back. The father welcomed the prodigal son when he came back….I don’t remember it being part of that story that the father went crawling after his wayward son. I don’t see how compromising our own beliefs achieves anything. In fact I would have thought it is more likely to be counter-productive.

  • scary goat

    I’m not quite sure why you would think that I see things in black and white….in general, far from it…but there are some things, surely, which ARE black and white.
    ps. please see my response above to the pp.

  • pbecke

    I can see, I believe, the technical reason for not sharing Holy Communion, but Francis seems to ‘get it’, that the division was not solely the work of the Protestants, but was primarily caused by the sheer institutionalized wickedness which ‘cradle’ Catholics always thought they could get away with by invoking Holy Mother church. Hence our atomised Christendom, or its remnants. Not that I am ‘knocking’ Benedict, whom I also think was an outstanding pope. His firmness on doctrine post Vatican II was needed, and his holy character shone out like a beacon.

    I mean the Tridentine legalistic types, who never understood that our religion is meant to be at the service of love, not the other way around. Consequently, it behoves us to show faith in the essential Christian goodness of our separated brethren, and allow God to finally uphold our rubrics, in his good time.

  • Dr Falk

    You are right about the Reformation. The Church was in a mess. St Francis of Assisi was called to repair the Church. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 was to reform the Church. – a number of canons were aimed at reform of clerical morality.The Fifth Lateran Council ending in 1517 dealing with simony, good preaching ( mention here of ‘ preachers spread this medley of fraud and error, backed by the false testimony of alleged miracles’), clerical morality and reform of the Curia. Martin Luther started the Reformation several months later. If the Church was in good shape why the call to St Francis and these councils – one on the very eve of the Reformation?.

  • ALEX

    The one church is the church of Peter. Who was Peter? An ordinary man who was nothing without the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The trouble with our church is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in the Confirmation Rite. This should be changed to ‘receive the blessing of the Church and when you are older seek the Baptism in the Spirit in order to be guided by Jesus Himself. ‘Go Peter, and when you are converted, strenthen your brethren’.

  • Mrs. Hilda Davis.

    Dear Beloved one in Christ.

    Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, My name are Mrs. Hilda Davis. I am married to Mr. Johnson Davis. Who worked with Kuwait embassy here in Lome Togo and so invested in Cocoa exports for nine years before he died in the year 2007. We were married for eleven years without a child, He died after a brief illness did lasted for only four days when my late husband what alive he Deposited the sum of ($ 2.5 MILLION U.S. DOLLARS) in one of the security company here in Lome Togo.

    I am suffering from esophageal cancer for years now and have undergone series of cancer treatments but no avail. My doctor recently told me privately did I might not survive this cancer illness for the next two months due to the cancer has damage my kidney, Having known my condition I am in need of a honest Hearted Individual Christian or Church that will utilize this funds for charity works, helping Less privileged people, Orphanages, Widows and Propagating the word of God. I took this decision because i do not have any child that will inherit this fund, and I do not want in a way where this money will be used in at ungodly way. This is why I am taking this decision to hand you over this fund. I am not afraid of death HENCE I know where I am going.

    My dear With God all things are possibleness, As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the details of this fund, so I want to issue you an authorization letter that will prove you the present beneficiary, Reply to my private email

    May God Bless You,

    Mrs. Hilda Davis.

  • The Rock Of Peter

    Fellow Catholics,

    I humbly offer this thought.

    All we can do in relation to our seperated Christain brothers is state the truth about the ACTUAL meaning of Scripture, and state the truth about the ACTUAL beliefs of the early Church, and then just pray. We know the Church of the NT, and down through the centuries, is Catholic on every single point. The Catholic Church was founded by Christ. When some people in the early Church decided to leave the Church, the name “Catholic” was given to the Church so as to identify the true Church from the break-away groups.

    It takes a lot of time and prayer to penetrate Protestant prejudice against the Catholic Church. They have come to believe that their falsification of Scripture and their falsification early Church history, has some “divine guarantee”.

    So in summary- state the truth in love, and pray.


  • Carlos Estrada

    Peace be with you… i congratulate all my catholic brothers and sisters. Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church. We have 1.2 billion Catholics and 2000 years of Christian history. Glory be to God–