During the time of Paul VI, Protestant pastors came to Rome to participate as “observers” in the drafting of the new “Catholic” liturgy at the Consilium and presided over by Fr. Annibale Bugnini.
Their contribution to the drafting of the new missal was not only symbolic, but effective, as evidenced by one of them, Pastor Jasper, and as shown in no. 23 of the Consilium bulletin, Notitiae, of November 1966. It is no coincidence that the non-Catholic participants in this meeting were all Protestants, without even one Orthodox.
Moreover, Bugnini himself writes that the new rite was drawn up “to facilitate the path of union to our separated brethren, removing any stumbling block or displeasure.” (Catholic Documentation, n. 144, 1965, col. 604).
The love of the conciliar popes for Martin Luther was expressed on many subsequent occasions, of which we will only recall the main ones here.
In 1983, John Paul II, in a letter to Cardinal Willebrands, described Luther as a man “of deep religiosity.” In his Address to the Scandinavian Lutheran bishops on June 6, 1989, he stated that, “some of Luther’s requests for reform and renewal have found resonance with Catholics from different points of view,” notably with the Second Vatican Council.
And then there is Benedict XVI’s close relationship with the Lutheran world: he was the first pope to assist at a Lutheran worship service as such, from start to finish, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Rome on March 14, 2010.
So this is not a “simple” ecumenical meeting. He too did not fail to praise Luther in Erfurt on September 23, 2011.
As for Pope Francis, it is not necessary here to recall the joint celebrations with the Lutherans for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which began in Lund, Sweden on October 31, 2016. On this occasion, he thanked God for the gift of the Reformation, essentially attributing to God such a great evil.
The famous statue of Luther, which appeared in Rome during the celebrations of this period, reappeared during the October 25 event in the Paul VI hall. An effigy behind the pope of the celebrated Huss, the heretical precursor of Luther, and profiles of the pontiff and the German reformer appeared side by side.
The Pope gave a short speech: “At the beginning you greeted me with a community song. Singing unites. In the choir, no one is alone: it is important to listen to others. I desire this willingness to listen for the Church. We are learning it again in the synodal process.”
“Thus, from many voices, a song is formed. This is also how ecumenism comes about, in Germany and in many other parts of the world.” A chorus of discordant voices, united by the simple fact that general modernism has emptied dogmas of all real meaning.
As for the desired listening “for the Church” in view of the Synod, we have learned that it is a question of listening to the world, and not to Revelation, the only manifestation of the divine spirit which is history itself and which opens the “processes” so dear to the pope. Thus, Luther becomes, in the Church on the move, a model because he initiated a “process” of reform, which touched dogmas and ecclesiastical structure.
If, in the time of Paul VI, the content of these heresies were to pass into the Catholic liturgy, today it becomes one of the historical paradigms in which we are living, that is to say a continuous process towards a religion updated to the needs of the world, carried out by “prophets” and revolutionaries.
On October 25, 2021, Pope Francis received in audience in the Paul VI Hall the participants of the ecumenical pilgrimage “From Luther to the Pope” from Germany, with the motto “Better all together,” and he desired “this willingness to listen for the Church,” which is “learning it anew in the synodal process.”