On November 5-9, 2018, ten friars from Italy, Malta, France, Turkey and Germany gathered at the friary in Schwarzenberg, Germany, for the 9th “Pro Dialogo” Meeting. The meeting was organized by Friar Silvestro BEJAN, the Delegate General for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue (EDI).

Friar Silvestru is also the director of the International Franciscan Center for Dialogue (CEFID). The theme he prepared for this meeting was: “Paths of Dialogue between Catholic Christians and Christians of the Protestant Reform.” The General Assistant for the Centralis Europae Foederatio (CEF), Friar Miljenko HONTIĆ, was also present at the meeting. On Tuesday, November 6, Friar Heinz-Meinolf STAMM, OFM, was the first lecturer. He spoke on “Martin Luther and his Theology.” In his lecture, he quoted Cardinal WILLIBRANDS, who in 1970, speaking before the Lutheran World Federation, called Luther the “Common Doctor of Faith and Love.” Friar Heinz-Meinolf also said: “Today, even Protestants admit that Luther was never a Protestant—he was a Catholic until his death. Moreover, the Lutheran Church does not really demonstrate the success of the reform, but its failure.”
On the same day, Friar Silvestru BEJAN presented a four-part report: (1) “Francis yes – Francis no: Francis of Assisi and Martin Luther”. Here, he used Luther’s writings to show how Luther somewhat admired Saint Francis, but more often spoke against Francis’ choices and those of his friars—especially regarding religious vows; (2) “The Franciscan Orders before the Protestant Reformation of the Early 16th Century: A Polymorphism of Attitudes and Responses”; (3) “Franciscan Rewrites between the 19th and 20th Centuries”; and (4) “Assisi: The City that Welcomes Lutherans”.
After Friar BEJAN’s reports, the participants went to meet Professor Joachim ROTH, a Protestant pastor in Scheinfeld, Germany. They also visited the church of his congregation. The participants then asked several questions in order to “confirm” what they had heard during the morning.
On Wednesday, November 7, two important visits were made to the city of Nuremberg. The participants first visited the CPH Academy in the Diocese of Bamberg, where Dr. Claudio ETTL, a specialist in New Testament exegesis, spoke about the Sister Caritas PIRCKHEIMER (1467-1532), a German Poor Clare who strenuously opposed Martin Luther in the reform of Catholic monasteries.
The second visit was to the Protestant Academy in Nuremberg, where Dr. Ekkehard WOLLEBEN, Pastor and Rector of the Academy, spoke about ecumenical activities taking place in Nuremberg and Catholic-Protestant collaboration in fostering interreligious dialogue.
On the last day, there was meeting in the morning, which included a fraternal discussion on the commitment to dialogue and some time spent planning work and activities for the future. In the afternoon, the participants visited the Protestant Monastery in Schwanberg, Germany. While there, they met with Sister Katharina-Susanne SCHULZ, CCR, an evangelical (Lutheran) Benedictine nun. From their dialogue with the nun, it became very clear that in theory members of the evangelical (Lutheran) denomination do not profess solemn vows in religious life. However, in practice, the nuns live their vows according to the Rule of St. Benedict.
The final visit was made to a “private” church along the Autobahn-Rasthof Geiselwind called “Licht auf unserm Weg” (Light on our Way). This church is used for Catholic functions and Lutheran services; the friars of Schwarzenberg collaborate with the Catholic owner of the church. The visit concluded with the recitation of Evening Prayer.
The participants returned to their friaries on Friday, November 9th.

Friar Silvestru BEJAN