Counter Reformation

What was the Counter Reformation?

Also called the Catholic Reformation, it was the Roman Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Some parishioners and members of the Roman Catholic clergy had already been calling for reforms within the church for more than two centuries when in 1517 German monk and theology professor Martin Luther (1483–1546) nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg (Saxony, Germany). His theses attacked the doctrines and authority of the church, sparking the Reformation. The movement’s leaders, called Protestants because they protested against the Catholic Church, changed the religious landscape of Europe by creating new Christian churches. But a movement to make changes inside the Catholic Church also began. The turning point came in 1534 when Paul III (1468–1549) became pope. Realizing that the church must respond to what it viewed as a religious crisis, Pope Paul convened the Council of Trent (in Italy), which was charged with reviewing all aspects of religious life. The ecumenical group met from 1545 to 1547, 1551 to 1552, and 1562 to 1563, and out of those deliberations emerged the modern Catholic Church. The Counter Reformation was aided by a group of priests and brothers known as the Jesuits, members of the Society of Jesus, a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church. The Jesuits were instrumental in spreading the word of the reforms and in promoting a new spirit within the Catholic Church.


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