An embittered Vatican insider (many of them saw this day coming) has leaked the document that Pope Francis has been working on together with Lutheran leaders: Stultus Aprilis.
Pope Francis, always surprising people during the four years so far of his pontificate, is preparing to announce that Martin Luther is certainly in heaven. This is called equipollent canonization – where, by virtue of his position as the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis can bypass the ordinary judicial process of canonization.
Reformation experts think that the most likely date of the proclamation of Stultus Aprilis is on October 31. This year, that date marks exactly 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the church door of Wittenberg.
It is clear that, at least for Roman Catholics, Martin Luther will be able to be referred to as “Saint Martin Luther”. This builds on the work of Pope Saint John Paul II who, in the year celebrating 500 years since Martin Luther’s birth, titled Martin Luther “Doctor”. Plans are also underway to commemorate Martin Luther on a Vatican stamp. “Usually if individuals are commemorated on stamps they are saints.”
Last minute details are still being finalised. In particular, previous agreements, (between Roman Catholics and Lutherans) around the nature of justification and salvation, are being drawn on to clarify how the intercession of Saint Martin Luther will be called upon to, for example, aid the suffering souls in Purgatory.
Feast Day details have not been part of the leak. Will October 31 be the focus for the universal veneration of Saint Martin Luther (no other major saint is celebrated on that date)? Or will the day of his death (18 February ) be his saint’s day ?
Other issues are also, obviously, being dealt with behind the scenes – not least the Protestant tendencies to split. Some Lutheran bodies may split into two – those accepting that their founder is now a Roman Catholic saint, and those objecting to this honouring.
Observers from other denominations are now looking forward to the canonisation of other significant Reformation leaders: Thomas Cranmer, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin are three that spring to mind.
Liturgists are working around the clock to finalise the propers in Latin so that they can be translated into the vernacular for local use for the cultus of St Martin Luther. Drafts for these have also been leaked, and, for those interested, a translation of Stultus Aprilis is available here.