The article tries to find a possible model of role that the papal office can play for ec-umenical dialogue. First, the author reviews opinions about the pope and his office issued by the Evangelical Church in the 16th century, especially in Martin Luther’s theology. In the second step, there is an analysis of the ‘pope’ understanding presented by the modern Polish Lutheran theology. According to the applied method of “unity in reconciled diversity” it seems that the pope, as a head of the Roman Catholic Church could be understood as primus inter pares. The article develops the possible consequence of this papal duty in the vision of the ecumenical Pentarchy. It would be an ecumenical collaboration between the 5 biggest traditions of the modern Christianity: Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Eastern Pre-Chalcedonian Churches, Anglicanism and Lutheran Protestantism. This model does not mean a way to the institutional primacy of the Bishop of Rome.
The paper outlines the Catholic and the Evangelical standpoint on the primate’s function served by the Bishop of Rome and its origin. The controversy revolves around the key phrase, iure divino and iure humano, which points to the divine or human origin of the primacy. In the Catholic perspective, Jesus Christ brought the Church into existence and provided this institution with permanent structural elements: primacy and apostolate. This thesis, considered an imperative of faith, is based on the texts of the Gospel which underscore the primacy of Saint Peter the Apostle among the Twelve and in the early Church. According to the Catholic ecclesiology, it was not only a private privilege enjoyed by Peter but a permanent element of the structure of the Church, which received the formal status of a dogma at the First Vatican Council. From the outset, the Reformation has assumed that primacy is an element shaped in the course of the historical development of the Church. The ecumenical dialogue between Catholicism and Lutheranism led to the establishment of a standpoint veering towards the consideration of the origin of primacy as a matter of lesser consequence. This step was taken in order to underscore the communal dimension of the Church, with its important function in unifying Christianity and presenting it to the world. The basic premise giving credence to this function is its foundation in the Gospel.
This article, written on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, focuses on the subsequent 100th anniversary of this event and the celebrations in a given historical context and in relation to the perception of the person of Martin Luther. Within 500 years of the memorable speech of the Reformation Father, which initiated the “Protestant reform” movement, at least every consecutive hundred years was celebrated as a special commemoration of this fact, which changed the course of European and World history and moved deeply into Christianity. The individual anniversary of the Reformation should therefore be considered in relation to social and political situation in Europe of that time, especially in Germany. It is no less important to draw attention to the figure of the founder of the Reformed Church, which has always focused, even today, on the celebration of the anniversary of the Reformation. The article presents the main themes of Martin Luther’s life in the context of his reform of Christianity and the basic ideas guiding his thoughts. Then, the development of the Reformation is analyzed, understood as the deepening of doctrine and the stabilization of practice, in the years after the death of the founder of the reform movement. Against this background, successive anniversaries of the Protestant reform are presented with regard to the religious and political situation in Europe and in the world, with particular emphasis on the last anniversary i.e. 500th anniversary of the Reformation and its perception in Protestant Churches as well as in the Catholic Church in the context of the development of the ecumenical movement.
The article is a topic outline of the theology of the Church’s unity. It shows the spectrum of contemporary reflection on this attribute of the Church mentioned in the Nicene-Con-stantinople Symbol (credo in unam Ecclesiam). The reflection includes biblical categories, especially the idea of koinōnia/communio, emphasizing the Trinitarian basis for unity of the Church, and its concrete means – bonds of unity. Among these means of unity, particular attention is paid to the bond of faith, the sacraments and ecclesiastical governance, nota-bly the universal ministry of Christian unity. Individual Churches (denominations) have different visions of unity, but also these concepts are the subject of ecumenical dialogue. The most recent ecumenical vision on the Church, including its unity, is the document of the World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order, Towards a Common Vision of the Church (published in 2013). Christian Churches involved in the contemporary ecumenical dialogue are aware that the unity of the Church is a reality given and set, yet incomplete and imperfect, so to speak “on the way”. In this sense they can express their spero in unam Ecclesiam.
One of the essential problems in the relationship between Catholic-Orthodox churches is the difference in the interpretation of the current forms of the primacy in the Church of the Bishop of Rome. Contemporary studies on the essence and on the method of accom-plishing this service on behalf of the universal Church’s unity assumed new dynamics after the publication of the ecumenical encyclical letter of John Paul II – Ut unum sint. The Pope addressed and requested the pastors and theologians to establish with him a “patient and fraternal dialogue” (see US 95-96), for both parties to strive to achieve “the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned” (US 95). The contemporary Orthodox theologians, based on the results of historical studies, are con-vinced that the idea of the Roman primacy has been always presented in the theological awareness of the Christian East. The Eastern Churches do not negate the primacy of the Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, and as the first bishop of the whole Church. Recognizing the primacy of the Holy See as an incontestable historical fact, the Orthodox theologians see the crucial problem in the determination of its nature. They do not accept the primacy in the juridical sense.
The Catholic image of Martin Luther in the course of the centuries evolved from the literally negative one during the time of the Reformation and the centuries that followed, through the theological attempts and historically in-depth analyses inspired by the ecumenical movement up to contemporary acceptance of several theological postulates. Contemporary movements of Roman-Catholic thinking of Luther well summarize historically vulnerable and dogmatically deepened opinions of the recent popes: John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. Following the agreement texts of the Lutheran-Catholic Commission at the world forum, ecumenically open popes can find out in Martin Luther a profoundly religious man, the witness of the Gospel whose theological thought is still relevant and a challenge for the presently secularized world.