Germany celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on Tuesday with a national holiday and ceremonies in the eastern city of Wittenberg, where Martin Luther began a split in the Catholic Church that transformed Christianity and Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Saxony-Anhalt state Premier Reiner Haseloff attended several ceremonies in Wittenberg that started with an afternoon church service in the city’s Castle Church and concluded with a ceremony in the city hall in the evening.
Other German politicians and numerous international guests also attended ceremonies in the city.
Speaking at an event in Wittenberg’s All Saints’ Church Tuesday evening, Merkel said Luther “got a ball rolling that could not be stopped and that changed the world forever.”
She also took the opportunity to stress the importance of religious and political tolerance in Europe, saying “whoever believes in diversity must also practice tolerance; that has been the experience of our continent over the years. It’s been painstakingly learned that the basis for peaceful co-existence in Europe is tolerance.”
Luther (1483-1546), a theology professor and priest, questioned the Catholic Church’s teachings and challenged the Vatican’s authority through his “95 Theses.” He is believed to have nailed the theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church on October 31, 1517.
Performances by musicians and comedians took place in Wittenberg’s historic city center throughout the day. Several other events, exhibits and church services were also held across Germany to mark the anniversary.
On Monday, members of Berlin’s protestant youth organization nailed their own theses to the doors of around 300 churches in the German capital. Berlin state youth pastor Sarah Oltmanns told protestant news agency EPD that the youths prepared their church reform suggestions for two years in workshops and other events.