Germany marks 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s challenge

WITTENBERG, GERMANY - OCTOBER 31: Visitors walk on the Market Place near the Stadtkirche Sankt Marien church during celebrations to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Luther's nailing of his 95 theses on the doors of the nearby Schlosskirche church on October 31, 2017 in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther drafted his 95 theses that called for reform within the Catholic Church in Wittenberg and held the first mass in the vernacular at the Sankt Marien church. Germany is today celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation that Luther set in motion and that led to the creation of successful Protestant movements in history's most significant challenge to the Catholic Church. Luther's translation of the Bible made it accessible to a much broader audience. He spoke out against the practice of indulgences and the sale of relics, and also argued that a place in Heaven is possible not by good deeds but through faith. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

BERLIN (AP) — German leaders on Tuesday marked the 500th anniversary since the day Martin Luther is said to have nailed his theses challenging the Catholic Church to a church door, a starting point of the Reformation.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier took part in a service in the famous Castle Church in Wittenberg, where Luther supposedly posted his 95 Theses on Oct. 31, 1517.

In remembrance of the 500th anniversary, Reformation day was a public holiday in Germany this year.

Thousands of people were participating in different church services throughout the day in the eastern German town of Wittenberg. The city also celebrated the anniversary with a medieval-style street festival including arts and cultural events.

As Protestantism spread following Luther’s revolt against the Catholic Church, religious wars erupted, dividing western Christianity in a schism that resulted in hundreds of years of violence, persecution and discrimination.

Merkel, in a speech in Wittenberg, stressed the importance of tolerance toward the wide variety of beliefs.

“Those who embrace plurality must exercise tolerance — that is the historical experience of our continent,” she said. “Tolerance is the basis for peaceful togetherness in Europe.”

Both Lutheran and Catholic clergy, who participated in different church services and celebrations throughout the day, vowed to do more for the unity of Christianity and to overcome differences.

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