This year, for the first time in history, the Protestant and Catholic Churches, split since the age of the Reformation, will come together for an ecumenical celebration of the anniversary of the Reformation. One of the central events will be a penance and reconciliation service in Hildesheim on 11 March 2017, jointly held by the Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and the Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Landesbischof Dr. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm. Under the motto “Healing of Memories”, the service will mark 500 years of the Reformation by contemplating the painful impact of the two divided Churches and pray for God’s forgiveness for the failings on both sides. But there will also be expressions of thanks and joy for common ground and aspects the two institutions admire in each other. This central service is not only a Church matter, but promotes understanding and reconciliation in our society. It will be broadcast live by ARD.
The German Bishop’s Conference and the Council of the EKD have suggested holding similar services on the regional or local level after the central celebration in Hildesheim. A liturgical blueprint, also underpinning the central service on 11 March 2017, is contained in the text published by the EKD and the Secretariat of the German Bishop’s Conference entitled “Healing of Memories – Giving Witness to Christ. A Common Address in 2017”. The publication describes key theological concepts and spaces of memory impacting on our collective memory to this day; at the same time, it highlights the progress that has been made by the ecumenical movement without ignoring the questions that remain open.