A Maltese masterpiece within the theological field

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On Friday, 12 October 2018, at the Augustinian Institute at Pietà, Rev. Prof. Salvino Caruana OSA, launched his much awaited book on Martin Luther, “Jien s’hawn nista’”, Martinu Luteru: Riforma jew riforma?

The decision to put pen to paper and write a book about the German Augustinian Monk Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), during this present period of celebrations of the 500th anniversary of his Reform, runs the great risk of attracting too much attention…and criticism. The writer also faces the corollary problem of having too much on the plate to digest properly. The other risk is that of having the work judged according to extremely different forms of appreciation, and fine criticism.

Professor Salvino Caruana, an Augustinian Monk, in a few preliminary chapters, provides the reader with a snapshot of how Luther’s world looked like, namely, Europe, Germany, the Catholic Church, and the Mendicant Order of the Friars of Saint Augustine, in the 15th and 16th centuries. After composing a biography of Martin Luther, Fr Caruana provides three chapters in which he gives a detailed outline of the Reform, the Counter-Reformation, and the Council of Trent. In four appendices, the author describes, and discusses, the major polemic regarding Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, the relations between Luther and the Jews, Luther and the Anabaptists: a reform within the Reform, and, finally, a chapter on the relations between Luther and the Turks. Following in the footsteps of Augustine of Hippo’s writings, Fr Caruana too composed a Retractatio.

There is no doubt regarding the fact that Martin Luther is one of very few within the history of Christianity, in the religious politics of his Fatherland, Germany, and in the history of Europe, about whom so much has been written. In other words, one is to be fully aware that one is dealing with a historical figure of immense importance and stature, namely, about one who, in 1542, declared himself to be the most popular person: “in heaven, on earth, but also in hell”!

Very soon after 1515, Luther began to be seen in the light of a saviour of the German people from the slavery of Rome and the papacy. Luther, in fact, was the one who finally freed the conscience from the slavery and fear of eternal damnation, even while here on earth. There is undoubtedly a lot still to be cleared concerning Martin Luther’s own attitudes in the light of the negative mood, and apocalyptic tendencies, he harboured towards the end of his own life, and upon which he preached and taught. The German Reformer’s points of view are also to be measured against those of some of his contemporaries, namely, Erasmus of Rotterdam, and a few others, who too went through the same problems, but remained, more or less, faithful to the Catholic Church.

Professor Caruana wrote that even during Luther’s own lifetime, some considered him as a great personality, holy, sent by God, so as to better and purge the life of many members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, beginning with the papacy itself. Others considered him to have been sent by Satan himself in order to chastise and destroy the Catholic Church. As regards some traits of his character too there have been immensely widely varying opinions. Some wrote about his affability, kind-heartedness, jovial, whereas others wrote about his haughtiness, shamelessness, a glutton and grossly uncouth. A saying in Maltese runs: “As haughty as Luther!” Where lies the truth about Martin Luther?

In an extremely well-documented conclusion, Prof. Caruana argues that in writing on this topic, one ought to keep well in focus the fact that today the majority from among the Protestants acknowledge that Luther committed a number of mistakes, whereas Catholics ought to acknowledge the fact that the Catholic hierarchy too grossly misinterpreted and misjudged the Reformer for centuries.

In his appreciation of this volume, “Jien s’hawn nista’”, Martinu Luteru: Riforma jew riforma? Mgr Prof. Hector Scerri, described Fr Caruana’s work as “masterpiece” since the latter “commits himself to depicting the reformer in an objective manner, namely a perspective which puts events and their implications within a much wider and truer picture. He refrains from following the former black-and-white schemes of ‘us’ and ‘them’, preceding the era of authentic ecumenical dialogue and relations”.

Why not grabbing a copy of this intriguing volume?

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