May 27th 1564: Calvin dies

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John Calvin (1509 – 1564)

 

On this day in 1564, the French theologian John Calvin died in Geneva aged 54. Calvin, born in France in 1509, is best known for his formulation of the Protestant doctrine known as Calvinism. Calvinism advocates the view of predestination – that God chooses who will be saved and who will be damned even before their birth; there is thus nothing one can do in this life to alter their fate in the next. Whilst there is nothing one can do to alter their fate, Calvinists hold that those who live a godly life show evidence of being one of God’s elect, and so there is a point to living righteously. The elect had to prove their status by giving a narrative of their conversion before the church (which at this point meant the congregation of the elect). It was these views that provided the foundation of Puritan belief in Britain and colonial America. Calvin’s views made him a controversial figure in his lifetime, and he was an early supporter of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. In the last years of his life, Calvin was the ruler of Geneva where he relentlessly promoted Protestantism, even resorting to executing and exiling religious dissenters.

 

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The exact location of Calvin’s grave is unknown, but this site in Geneva is the traditional site

 

“We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which He determined what He willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is ordained for some, eternal damnation for others.”
– John Calvin

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May 25th 1085: Pope Gregory VII dies

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Pope Gregory VII (1020 – 1085)

 

On this day in 1085 Pope Gregory VII died in Salerno. He became Pope in 1073 and was known for his advocacy of Church reform such as ending the practice of simony (selling Church offices) and ensuring clerical celibacy. Gregory VII was crucial in the Investiture Controversy which was a dispute between the Pope and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV over who had the power to invest bishops with the symbols of their office. Gregory VII excommunicated Henry IV twice, leading the Emperor to wait outside Canossa Castle for the Pope for three days in the snow, begging for his excommunication to be rescinded, which Gregory granted. Gregory’s excommunication of Henry was considered by some as an over-extension of papal power over secular matters.

 

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Emperor Henry IV (1050 – 1106)

January 3rd 1521: Luther excommunicated

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The 1521 Decet Romanum Pontificem

On this day 1521, Pope Leo X issued the papal bull ‘Decet Romanum Pontificem’ which excommunicated Martin Luther. Luther was a German monk who became disillusioned from the Catholic Church due to its corruption, such as taking money from people as a guarantee into heaven. Luther protested this corruption by famously writing his ‘95 Theses’ in 1517, an event which symbolically began the Protestant Reformation. The Pope did not accept Luther’s anti-Catholic writings and eventually expelled him from the church in 1521.

 

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Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)

Luther’s excommunication finalised the split between Luther and his followers and the Catholic Church. The Protestant Reformation is one of the most important moments in European history, as it established the religious divide which shaped European history from 1517 onwards. Had it not been for the Reformation and the establishment of the Protestant Church the European wars of religion, and numerous other events, which raged in early modern Europe would not have occurred.

 

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Pope Leo X (1475 – 1521)

December 7th 1965: Catholic-Orthodox Joint Declaration

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Pope Paul VI (1897 – 1978)

On this day in 1965 Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I issued the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Declaration. The Declaration simultaneously revoked the mutual excommunications made by the Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1054. This event was known as the Great Schism and contributed to the medieval separation of the East and West churches, the former being Greek and the latter Latin. The Declaration represented an important moment in the reconciliation of the two churches, with both being represented by their respective leaders.

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Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople (1886 – 1972)