I recently received an invitation to a lecture and dinner to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Surely that is not something to celebrate. Commemorate possibly, but certainly not celebrate.
Of course, we do remember 5 November – gunpowder, treason and plot – when Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament during the state opening by King James I in an act of treason that has made Guy Fawkes our most notorious traitor.
The Gunpowder Plot took place in 1605 after 70 years of persecution and dozens of executions. Catholics got their revenge for five years during the reign of Queen Mary, but there were many years of suffering still to come. I cannot see how any of this can be the sort of thing I want to celebrate, but I do want to commemorate the Reformation.
I want to remember all those martyrs, both Catholic and Protestant, who died for their beliefs, and to pray that some of their strength and the clarity of their faith may be given to me. I also hope that the faults in the Catholic Church, which sparked the Reformation, have been corrected through the past centuries.
But above all I want to celebrate the closeness that we all feel towards our fellow Christians who are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ. It has taken us centuries to get to this point; we must not let the hope of full communion with them slip away.