St. George’s Catholic Cathedral, Southwark – Commemoration of the Reformation

A joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation was held on Sunday at St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Southwark, hosted by the Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Reverend Peter Smith.

The Archbishop of Birmingham and Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Department of Dialogue and Unity, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley, and Bishop Martin Lind, Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Great Britain, preached at the commemoration.

In his homily, Archbishop Longley said that we have all too often allowed ourselves to ‘be identified and characterised by those features of our Christian traditions that distinguish us from one another.’ He reflected on how, in our time ‘the Scriptures and our common calling to evangelize bid us trust one another enough to follow the Lord side by side.’

The Archbishop shared how fifty years ago, it would have been impossible to conceive of Catholics and Lutherans meeting together in St George’s Cathedral and to ‘be able to face the challenging story of the Reformation with equanimity, as well as gratitude for this moment.’

He also highlighted how ‘even twenty years ago nobody could have foreseen that Pope Francis would travel to Lund Cathedral to commemorate the Reformation with the President of the Lutheran World Federation and sign the Joint Statement with its five imperatives.’

(See: – Five ecumenical imperatives)

To read the complete article, especially the full texts of Archbishop Longley’s and Bishop Lind’s sermons, click here.

I must admit that when Pope Benedict XVI visited Erfurt in 2011, and he and the Catholic Church were invited to join the Protestants in celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, I felt more than sceptical. However true it may be that many of Luther’s criticisms of the Church of his age were more than justified and that we have ourselves now heeded those criticisms and rectified many problem situations, “celebrating” the tearing apart of the Church and all the subsequent misery this caused seems even more perverse than holding a “divorce party”. I much prefer a Church that evolves to a Church that is rent asunder, although this is a game of patience and the evolution may take longer than our own lifetime. Vatican II is often called “Newman’s Council”, yet Blessed John Henry had been dead seventy-two years when it began.

This “commemoration of the Reformation” at St. George’s Cathedral makes me similarly uncomfortable. By all means commemorate, yes even celebrate, the progress that has been made in recents decades to heal the wounds of the Reformation, whilst remembering the additional wounds that have recently been inflicted on the Body of Christ!!

Will we also be called on to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Act of Supremacy on 3rd November 2034? I personally would much prefer to wait just one day and send my “Alleluia” heavenwards on the Silver Jubilee of Anglicanorum coetibus on 4th November 2034.

And please God the recent rift in the Church caused by Marcel Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X will be able to be healed, so that we will be spared the “celebration” of the 50th anniversary of the Archbishop’s excommunication in 2038.

David Murphy

4 thoughts on “St. George’s Catholic Cathedral, Southwark – Commemoration of the Reformation

    • There was an indisputable need to assert doctrinal orthodoxy in the face of heresy, to be sure.

      But, unfortunately, some elements of the so-called “counterreformation” were just as divisive as many of the so-called “reformers.” By way of example, the “Spanish Inquisition” was not exactly an exemplary display of Christian charity. I’m also not persuaded that the Council of Trent’s insistence upon innovations of a few centuries earlier to which many of the “reformers” took exception and suppression of alternatives, intended as a means of asserting the validity of those practices, was in any way constructive.



  1. Depending on the circumstances, one finds common cause with Sikhs (theists), Jews (Abrahamic kin), Lutherans (Christians) Catholic Charismatic Renewal enthusiasts (Catholics), 39 Article-Believing Anglicans (shared Anglican Patrimony, as illustrated in “Building Bridges” article here) and many other groups with which, in other circumstances, one has significant differences. Knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em is an important part of religious maturity, I think. As I have mentioned before, in my childhood Catholics left the classroom when the Lord’s Prayer was being said. Personally I think that sent the wrong message to non-Catholics and a really wrong message to non-Christians.


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