Your Religion Correspondent, Alf McCreary, makes some valid points in "Almost 500 years on from Luther, can we manage our own reformation in Northern Ireland?" (September 23).
There are, however, some areas which require qualification. Alf affirms that Martin Luther "started a process that changed history", but Luther was preceded by many others, like the Waldensians of the 12th century, John Wycliffe (1330-1384), Jan Hus (1369-1415), William Tyndale (1494-1536), Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498), Ximenes De Cisneros (1435-1517), to mention but a few, all of whom challenged not only the sale of indulgences but the Pope's doctrine.
The question which Alf poses: "Why, in God's name, are Protestants forbidden to share full Holy Communion with Roman Catholics some 500 years after the beginning of the Reformation?", is an interesting one which requires an answer. The short answer is that Roman Catholic communion and Protestant communion are two very different things.
A fuller answer comes from the Pope in Dominus Iesus (Aug 6, 2000): "On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense."
The "valid Episcopate" is the claim that the Roman Catholic Church has a continuous lineage going back to the Apostle Peter, whom they claim was the Bishop of Rome, even though there is no conclusive evidence to support it. The "Eucharistic mystery" is the doctrine of transubstantiation, which claims that the bread and wine in communion are transformed into the real body and blood of Christ. This is rejected by Protestants and some Catholic scholars. Because of this pre-requisite of a "valid Episcopate . . . and integral substance of the Eucharist (sic)", it places Presbyterians, like Alf and myself, well beyond the Pale.
Presbyterian Minister (Retired),