A Half-Millennium Rift

Lutherans and Catholics reach agreement on the issue that once split Western Christianity in two

In 1541 a group of well-meaning men met in the German town of Regensburg. Their topic was Martin Luther's ideas about justification by faith, rancor over which was fast splitting Western Christianity in two. Could justification, which all saw as the precondition of salvation, be influenced by human effort, or was it, as Luther had insisted, out of mortal hands? The Regensburg conferees, representing the Roman Catholic Church and the new Protestantism, produced language on the issue they thought might mend the rift.

They were wrong, but their cause was not totally lost. Last week--457 years, several disastrous religious wars...

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