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Signs of Forgiveness, Paths of Conversion, Practice of Penance

A Reform that Challenges All

Edited By 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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How Forgiveness is Spoken among Lutheran Christians (Gordon W. Lathrop)


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Gordon W. Lathrop

How Forgiveness is Spoken among Lutheran Christians

Abstract: In the Lutheran churches, since the sixteenth century, the western medieval practice of penance has become confession and absolution. Whether or not this practice has been deemed a sacrament — and Lutherans differ on that question — the liturgical renewal movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has sought to re-invigorate the proclamation of absolution, root that proclamation in baptismal meaning, and make it an expression of a church that is constantly full of forgiveness.

“You see, then, that the whole church is full of the forgiveness of sin,” wrote Martin Luther in 1519, in one of the three teaching sermons on the sacraments that he published in that year. These sermons, on Penance, Baptism, and the “Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ,” all possess Luther’s characteristic vitality of expression and can still be quite important for us, not least of all in the subject of this seminar. Luther continued, however, “But few there are who really accept and receive [this forgiveness]. For they do not believe it and would rather try to make themselves certain with their own works.”1

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