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Signs of Forgiveness, Paths of Conversion, Practice of Penance

A Reform that Challenges All

Theodor Dieter, Andrea Grillo and James Puglisi

This volume presents contributions of the Catholic-Lutheran International Conference held at the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome in 2016. The scholars were invited to reflect together on the questions of forgiveness, conversion and penance in the context of the ecumenical dialogue that has been going on since the Second Vatican Council. Precisely because stemming from a deep rethinking of God’s forgiveness, the movement that began half a millennium ago has borne diverse fruits in different traditions. Today, within the context of fraternal dialogue we may be able to recognize in a new way «the signs of God’s mercy». This motivation allows us to discover, in this book, new itineraries and processes of the conversion to God which also leads to the rediscovery and the inauguration of authentic forms of penance, both ecclesial and personal.

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Historical-theological questions about the Christian experience of forgiveness (Angelo Maffeis)


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Angelo Maffeis

Historical-theological questions about the Christian experience of forgiveness

Abstract: On the basis of the papers presented and of the discussion that took place at the Symposium in Sant’Anselmo in May 2016, the article tries to find out some fundamental questions that arise in the ecumenical dialogue on penance and forgiveness. First, the relationship between personal conversion of the human being and the function of the Church, which has been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, is taken into consideration. Then, the challenge by contemporary theology to the Augustinian pattern, that overemphasizes sin and forgiveness, is assessed.

There is something paradoxical about the celebration of the fifth centenary of the Reformation in 2017. Everyone has a more or less precise idea about the event that is being commemorated, that is to say, Luther’s publication of the ninety-five theses about indulgences. But the theological theme that gave rise to the conflict in 1517 is incomprehensible to most people today. This is because the conflict about indulgences goes back to a complex interweaving of the theological reflection on the sacrament of penance – which had undergone a sophisticated elaboration by scholastic theology – and the ecclesial praxis that had blossomed luxuriantly in the mediaeval epoch. This difficulty in grasping what was at stake explains the tendency in vast sectors of historical and theological research to turn one’s attention to other aspects of the Reformation, such as the influence it had on European society...

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