We had a busy day Saturday in Rome. In the morning we visited St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Vatican is an independent state within Italy. This is the largest church building in the world. Thousands of people visit it each day. There probably isn’t anyone who reads this blog who had not been here or seen photos or video of the building and its art treasures.
St. Peter’s is located on the site of Nero’s Circus. Nero’s persecution of Christians was in his circus, A.D. 64. (Tacitus, Annales, XV, 44).
St. Peter’s was financed through the sale of indulgences in the 16th century. The reaction to this practice was an important factor in the Reformation Movement. Dr. Dan Petty explains a little about Martin Luther’s role.
Doctrinal Issues and Religious Authority. The immediate issue that prompted Martin Luther to post his 95 propositions for debate in 1517 was the abuse of the Roman Catholic system of indulgences. The doctrine of indulgences, first formulated in the thirteenth century, was associated with the sacrament of penance and the doctrine of purgatory. While the sacrament was believed to provide forgiveness of sin and eternal punishment, it was thought that there was a temporal satisfaction that the repentant sinner must fulfill in this life or in purgatory. The indulgence was a document that one could purchase for a sum of money that would free him from the temporal penalty of sin. The excess merits of Christ and the saints were believed to be stored up in a heavenly “treasury of merit” which the pope could draw from on behalf of the living. In 1517 the Dominican Johann Tetzel was selling a special plenary indulgence (promising complete forgiveness of all sin) to raise money for the church. Half of the money was to be given to Archbishop Albert, to whom the pope had given a special dispensation to hold two offices. The rest would help finance the completion of Saint Peter’s cathedral in Rome. Luther’s protest initially was against what he saw as the abuse of the system of indulgence. It was also a challenge to the papal authority that made such abuses possible.
After the visit to St. Peter’s we went to the Vatican Museum. I broke away from the group to make some photos in the Roman section of the museum. Tremendous crowds visit this museum. I have been here several times since my first visit in 1967, and I have never seen the crowds worse than today.
In the afternoon the group went to the catacombs, I took leave to return to the hotel and continue work on my lesson for the Sunday service at La Chiesa di Christo, via Sannio 69 (Roma).