Ecumenical News International

Margot Käßmann: Freedom of opinion is a legacy of the Reformation

January 22, 2015

Stuttgart (epd). Freedom of belief and opinion in Europe stems from the Reformation concept of freedom, according to Margot Käßmann, special envoy of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) for the 2017 Reformation anniversary. "We are proud that violence does not meet with violence in Europe today but with demonstrations for freedom," said Käßmann in Stuttgart, commenting on the reactions after the terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. She conceded, however, that Protestantism had long had problems accepting democracy and the separation of church and state.

Kaßmann argued for an ecumenical celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. The emergence of Protestant regional churches in Germany was not to be perceived as "division" but as their own ecclesial path in a particular historical situation. In her estimation, the educational mission developed by the Reformers is particularly relevant, as social background is again beginning to strongly influence the quality of educational qualifications in Germany.

Käßmann was speaking at an ecumenical reception at the tourism trade fair CMT in Stuttgart. The reception featured the activation of a website and an app for mobile phones offering background information for visitors to historical churches. Smartphone users can check on historical dates, and look at photos even of places in a church building that are inaccessible to them. They can also use their phones as an audio-guide for different locations. The churches app was developed jointly with the EKD. It is to be extended in the next few months and also to cover many interesting churches used by German congregations abroad.

In addition, a new magazine was presented, telling stories about the Reformation in Baden and Württemberg, and 24 important historical sites. Andreas Braun, manager of the Baden-Württemberg tourism marketing company, noted that cooperation with the churches to produce these publications was a first-ever event. The booklet contains historical information and humorous oddities. For example, it explains that the Black Forest typical hat adorned with red wool balls (Bollenhut) is a tradition from the 18th century stemming from three Protestant villages.

Bishop Frank July announced that his church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart intended to study the history of the Wurttemberg Reformation together. They had already started planning for joint events to mark the anniversary in 2017.



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