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The Reformation

In the 16th century, the practice of buying indulgences for the remission of punishment in purgatory was prominent in the Roman Catholic Church. A number of prominent Christians questioned the teaching of purgatory and indulgences, culminating in 1517 with the German Martin Luther circulating his 95 Theses disputing indulgences. This marked the start of the Reformation and the Protestant Church. The ideas in Germany were taken up in other northern European countries, England and Switzerland. The Protestant Churches taught that the Bible had sole absolute authority, that every believer could come to God the Father through Christ without the need for a priest, and that justification was through faith alone. The Roman Catholic response to The Protestant Reformation is known as The Counter Reformation.

Background to Reformation

Martin Luther and Reformation in Germany

Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin and Reformation in Switzerland

English Reformation

Unlike other reform movements, the English Reformation began by royal influence. Interestingly, Henry VIII was initially a strong defender of Roman Catholicism, defending the papacy in his 1521 AD work The Defense of the Seven Sacraments. For this he was awarded, by Pope Leo X, the title Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith). However, the king came into conflict with the papacy when he wished to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, for which he needed papal sanction. Catherine was the aunt of Emperor Charles V, the pope's most significant secular supporter. The ensuing dispute lead to a break from Rome and the declaration of the King of England as head of the English (Anglican) Church. England then experienced a period of frenetic reforms, some more radical and others more traditional, under monarchs such as Edward VI and Elizabeth I, and church leaders such as Thomas Cranmer and William Laud. What emerged was a state church that considered itself both "Reformed" and "Catholic" but not "Roman", along with other "unofficial" more radical movements such as the Puritans.



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