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The credit for starting a regular movement for reformation goes to Martin Luther
Martin Luther on the doctrine of Purgatory
Martin Luther Roman Catholic Church
Luther's views were appreciated by the German nobility
The role of Martin Luther 1483 – 1546
The credit for starting a regular movement for reformation goes to Martin Luther, a preacher at the University town of Wittenberg in Germany. Luther had been to Rome. He did not agree with some of the doctrines of the Church. His conscience revolted against the practices of the Church which he considered wrong and could not accept.
Luther was greatly upset he saw `Indulgences' the certificates of pardon, being sold in Wittenberg. Luther objected strongly to this practice. He listed his objections (which became known as the `Ninety – Five Theses'), nailed them on the door of the local church and challenged scholars to have a debate on them. In his theses, he laid special emphasis on the tru principles of Christianity and strongly opposed the sale and purchase of the so – called `Indulgences' as a means of salvation. He had firm faith in the Bible, but not in the Pope.
Luther's theses were printed and distributed widely. This created a stir in the Christian world. The then pope of Rome sent him a letter of warning. Luther burnt it in front of some university students and professors. The Pope then asked the German Emperor Charles V to punish Martin Luther for heresy. Charles V ordered Luther to appear before the Diet of Worms (a kind of Council). There, Luther was asked to withdraw all his teachings. He firmly refuse. Fearing for his life, some of his friends kidnapped him and kept him hidden in a castle for about a year. It was there that he translated the New Testament of the Bible into German.
Luther's views were appreciated by the German nobility. The Germans were never good Roman Catholics. They resented the power of the popes, who were mostly of Italian origin. The critical spirit created by the Renaissance made the Germans take seriously the question of reform of the Church. Very soon, the preaching of Luther began to bear fruit. Those who left the Catholic Church came to be known as the `protestants' because they protected again some of the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.
A large number of German princes became followers of Luther not because they wholeheartedly believed in his doctrines but because they could seize the lands and property belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. The German nobles organised themselves into a league. There was a civil war in Germany on this issue from 1546 to 1553. finally, there was a truce and the ruling princes were permitted to follow the religion of their choice.
Lutheranism begin to spread to other European countries. By 1560, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and some other countries adopted Lutheranism as their national religion. The link between the Roman Catholic Church and many other countries also began to break.