15 May 2015

Chairing a session at a conference
on Martin Luther in Maynooth

Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth … the venue for this weekend’s international conference on Martin Luther (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I am chairing one of the opening sessions this morning [15 May 2015] of an international conference on Martin Luther. The conference in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co Kildare, ‘Martin Luther and Catholic Theology, remembering the Reformation,’ asks questions such as “What have we learned?” and “What have we yet to learn?”

The conference has been organised by the Revd Dr Declan Marmion, Professor of Systematic Theology in Maynooth, and Dr Salvador Ryan, Professor Ecclesiastical History, Maynooth.

The year 2017 sees the 500th anniversary of the key date in European history that marks the beginning of a long period of Reformations that divided western Christianity along confessional lines.

Martin Luther is central to this story both in its historical unfolding and its later legacy. The polemic and counter-polemic that followed on all sides resulted in a succession of religious war” across Europe ending in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).

The effects of the 16th-century Reformations were long-lasting and, for centuries, polemical literature, exchanged between all parties highlighted contested theological issues and perpetuated cultures of mutual suspicion.

In preparing to commemorate that significant anniversary in 2017, the conference organisers hope to look at Luther’s theological legacy and its contemporary relevance, and to examine the reception of Luther within the Roman Catholic tradition and among Catholic theologians. For example, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has shown how Roman Catholics can have a sympathetic reading of Luther while not denying the theological differences.

The conference keynote speakers include: Professor Heinz Schilling (Humboldt University), Professor Christine Helmer (Northwestern University), Professor Risto Saarinen (University of Helsinki), Professor Phillip Cary (Eastern University), Professor Peter Marshall (University of Warwick), Professor Peter de Mey (KU Leuven), the Revd Dr Charlotte Methuen (University of Glasgow), the Revd Professor James Corkery, SJ (Gregorian University, Rome), Dr Gesa Thiessen (Priory Institute and TCD), Professor Pieter de Witte (KU Leuven), and Dr Theodor Dieter (Institute for Ecumenical Research, Strasbourg).

The conference opens this morning with registration between 9 a.m. and 9.30 a.m at the Renehan Hall.

This morning’s opening speaker is Dr David V. Bagchi (University of Hull), who will speak on “Martin Luther: Catholic Theologian?” This opening session is chaired by Mr Martin Sauter of the Lutheran Church in Ireland.

After coffee, Prof. Peter Marshall (University of Warwick): speaks on “Luther Among the Catholics, 1520-2015.” This session is chaired by Dr Graeme Murdock (Trinity College Dublin).

At 12, I am chairing part of Session 2 of the conference, ‘Luther and the Mediaeval Tradition.’ Professor Phillip Cary (Eastern University) is addressing “Luther and the Legacy of Augustine.”

Dr Phillip Cary is Professor of Philosophy at Eastern University in St David’s, Pennsylvania, where he is also Scholar-in-Residence at the Templeton Honours College. He received his BA in English Literature and Philosophy from Washington University in St Louis. He holds a PhD in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Yale University.

Professor Cary is a recent winner of the Lindback Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching at Eastern University. He has also taught at Yale University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Hartford.

As a scholar, Professor Cary’s specialty is the thought of Saint Augustine, but he has also published scholarly articles on Luther, the doctrine of the Trinity, and personal knowledge. His most recent books include two on Saint Augustine, Inner Grace and Outward Signs, both published by Oxford University Press in 2008, as well as a commentary on the Book of Jonah, also in 2008, published by Brazos Press.

He is also well known for his lecture courses on Saint Augustine, Luther and the History of Christian Theology as part of the Great Courses series for the Teaching Company.

Other conference features include:

A programme of parallel shorter papers by emerging and early career scholars; a visit to the Russell Library to view its fine collection of manuscripts and early printed books (the holdings include some 2,000 Bibles in more than 500 different languages); sung Vespers in Maynooth’s splendid Neo-Gothic College Chapel; a round-table discussion; a visit to Saint Finian’s Lutheran Church, Adelaide Road, Dublin, on Sunday morning, and a reception sponsored by the German Embassy.

Full details of the conference are available here.

The conference continues in Maynooth until Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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