Opening of the exhibition Here I stand in Uppsala om March 13th 2017

Botschafter Heimsoeth Bild vergrößern Botschafter Dr. Hans-Jürgen Heimsoeth (© Auswärtiges Amt)

Dear Archbishop, dear Antje Jackelén

mina damer och herrar,

I am delighted to inaugurate this exhibition together with the Archbishop of Uppsala.  This year 500 years have passed since Martin Luther published his 95 theses at the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, attacking the trade in indulgences. The act that has gone down in history as the beginning of the Reformation and its worldwide effects.

The exhibition presents Martin Luther’s life and work, his origins and the background of the late Middle Ages spheres of life. This is an opportunity to learn about the time in which the awakening of the Reformation emerged.  And being in Wittenberg during King Carl Gustavs state visit – and seeing the window panes with Olaus and Laurentius Petri – this reminded me, this is also part of Swedish history.

The beginning of Reformation set in motion a process of transformation – first in Germany, then in Europe and in the end worldwide. But it was not only a religious and spiritual event: It created a cultural, political and social change towards modern society.

The Reformation’s ideas still shape our societies’ values today. With this exhibition and similar events in other countries we would like to take these core ideas out into to the world again.

Let me highlight three crucial points.

For the success of Reformation one cannot estimate  enough the importance of Luther  translating the Bible into German, the language of the people. This led to an incredible boom in education of the ordinary, men and women, it gave them the possibility to read what was important to them, leading the way to literacy and new-age learning, being instrumental to the Enlightenment and forming modern society and democracy.

Martin Luther was very keen in promoting awareness of freedom of conscious, critical judgment and the personal responsibility of every individual. He and many other reformers influenced our understanding of freedom, education and social coexistence.  More than ever these shared values seem to be important in a world that is out of joint as a result of crises and conflicts – just as the one you just visited, Archbishop, in Iraq. Luther teaches us not to look away when a situation is intolerable.  To never say: “I won’t make a difference anyway. Why should I even try?”. He reminds us that we are the ones that shape our own future.

Reading through the exhibition we can learn also learn about long-forgotten gender-roles and see how women at the time seized the reformation as an opportunity  - even though it demanded special courage, strength of conscience, patience and willingness to act. The German television just showed an impressive film on the life of Katharina von Bora, wife of Martin Luther. And I am very happy to open this exhibition with the first female archbishop in Sweden, Antje Jackelén.

Martin Luther was a controversial person. He was no saint. He spoke and wrote about Catholics, Turks, Jews and others in ways we would not accept today. He was a man of his time and he spoke as ordinary man in his time: but with a mission.

And we should never forget what the core of this mission was: Christian faith and how to live it. It is heartening to see how  - not least since the visit of the Pope to Lund – Catholics and Lutherans are starting to build the future again, exactly by looking to the questions of faith and the strong unitying elements of Christian faith. And it is encouraging to see how the Vatican is starting to to find a place for Martin Luther and his legitimate questions.

Martin Luther was a reformer – and he would be one also if he lived today. He was always one step ahead of his time and used the invention of the new communication technology – the book printing – wisely, skillfully and professionally to spread his writings. Within months, all Europe was awash with copies of Luther's theses. Still today, we watch a printed version of this exhibition.

But if facebook and twitter had been invented then, Luther surely would have used it.

I would like to invite you to explore the exhibition and wish you a pleasant Sunday in the beautiful city of Uppsala!