The Vatican on Thursday released two new postage stamps to commemorate the 500 years of the Protestant Reformation in October, and the 450th anniversary of the birth of Saint Francis de Sales in August.
The Vatican Philatelic Office that released the stamps explained that the €1 stamp on the 5th centenary of the Reformation, marked on October 31, 2017, “depicts in the foreground Jesus crucified and in the background a golden and timeless view of the city of Wittenberg,” where on the church door Martin Luther put up his 95 theses on October 31, 1517, marking the start of the Reformation.
In the stamp, Martin Luther is depicted on the left side of the Cross, kneeling in “a penitential disposition” and holding “the Bible, source and destination of his doctrine”. On the other side is “Philipp Melanchthon, theologian and friend of Martin Luther, one of the main protagonists of the reform,” who is holding the “’Augsburg Confession’ (Confessio Augustana), the first official public presentation of the principles of Protestantism written by him.”
The 16th Protestant Reformation triggered the second major split within Christianity, after the Great Schism of 1054 that split the followers of Christ into Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism. But after Vatican Council II, the Church has taken up the cause of unity among Christians as a prime mission. Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has been involved in fresh efforts in this regard.
Pope Francis and Protestant Reformation
Last year, he travelled to Sweden on October 31 to join Lutheran leaders for a common commemoration of the Protestant Reformation in the Lutheran Cathedral of Lund, kicking off a yearlong celebration that concluded on Oct. 31, 2017. Part of that commemoration included Lutherans and Catholics signing a joint statement pledging to pursue their dialogue in order to remove the remainding obstacles that hinder them from reaching full unity. They also stressed their commitment to common witness on behalf of the poor, the needy and the victims of injustice.
Francis of Sales
The other postage stamp of €2.55 celebrates the birth of St. Francis of Sales on August 21, 1567 in the French border town of Haute-Savoieon,. The portrait of the Bishop of Geneva in stained glass window style is depicted with a pen in his hand, as he regarded the patron of writers and journalists. The Philatelic Office said the saint “lived his ministry with a strong will to save the Church of Rome from the Calvinist Reformation” in the 17th century. “It is for the love of God that he brought back to communion with the Catholic Church many of the faithful who had separated themselves from it.”
120,000 copies have been printed of each stamp. The Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office (UFN) is responsible for issuing Vatican postal stamps and Euro coins. The office was established in 1929, issuing its first stamps that year featuring the image of Pope Pius XI.