Indonesian Protestants celebrating the start of the Reformation 500 years ago have embraced Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today's World, calling it a document that can significantly help mend ties among Christians in a country blighted by growing religious intolerance. The Protestant Reformation began on Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, a German pastor sent his Ninety-Five Theses on the power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the Archbishop of Mainz in which he criticized the Catholic Church and the papacy. During celebrations in Jakarta on Oct. 31 to mark the event Indonesian Protestant leaders said the pope’s message in his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium
or The Joy of the Gospel, in which he a called for churches to avoid blaming each other, held special meaning in Indonesia as fears grow over rising intolerance in the country. “The invitation by Pope Francis in the document is very relevant, asking churches to distant ourselves from blaming and slandering attitudes,” Rev. Herniette T. Lebang, chairwoman of Communion of Churches in Indonesia, said at the Oct. 31 gathering. Nearly 100 Protestants, Catholics and Muslims attended the event. “I am impressed with the pope’s messages in the encyclical and they inspire our theme for this important celebration,” she said. One, she said, is to “abandon the language of condemnation and embrace one of mercy.” She noted Pope Francis willingness to travel to Lund, Sweden at the invitation of the Lutheran World Federation
to attend activities marking the beginning of the anniversary year on Oct 31, 2016. “I am not only impressed but also touched by the pope’s efforts to reconcile and build relationship with other churches, and even other religions,” she said. Leave the luggage behind
Rev. Lebang encouraged Christians to use the 500th
anniversary to build peace and reconciliation among Christian churches. She also asked Protestant Churches to consider adopting the Catholic Church’s tradition of praying for peace and unity among Christians every third week of January. “Catholics in Indonesia follow this tradition each year, but not among Protestant Churches,” she said. Franciscan Father Antonius Eddy Kristiyanto, a lecturer at the Jesuit’s Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta, said not everything that Martin Luther did was wrong. Luther, he said, even encouraged reform in the Catholic Church.
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“Martin Luther has even saved the Catholic Church, and pushed it to reformulate church teachings,” he said. “It’s part of our history. Let’s move forward and reshape our relationship,” he said. Maria Isnawati, a Catholic participant, said Christianity in Indonesia is facing many challenges that need the unity of churches. “We should increase ecumenism and focus on becoming salt and light for other people and don’t be fanatical about our churches,” she said.