Diet of Worms

From Academic Kids

The Diet of Worms was a general assembly (a Diet) of the estates of the Holy Roman Empire that took place in Worms, Germany, a small town on the Rhine river, from January 28 to May 25, 1521, with Emperor Charles V presiding. Although other issues were dealt with at the Diet of Worms, it is most memorable for addressing Martin Luther and the effects on the Protestant Reformation.

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The previous year, Pope Leo X had issued the Papal bull Exsurge Domine, demanding that Luther retract forty-one of his 95 theses criticising the Church. Luther was summoned by the Emperor to appear before the Imperial Diet. Prince Frederick III, Elector of Saxony obtained an agreement that if Luther appeared he would be promised safe passage to and from the meeting. Such a guarantee was essential after the treatment of Jan Hus, who was tried and executed at the Council of Constance in 1415, despite a safe conduct pass.

Luther's Defence

Standing before the assembled Diet, Luther made a number of statements in his defence that were to become famous. He admitted to the authorship of the literature bearing his name, but refused to withdraw his teachings. He argued that he could not recant unless he became convinced to do so sola scriptura ("from Scripture alone"). Luther argued,

"Unless I am convinced by the testimony from scripture or by evident reason – for I confide neither in the Pope nor in a Council alone, since it is certain they have often erred and contradicted themselves – I am held fast by the scriptures adduced by me, and my conscience is held captive by God’s Word, and I neither can nor will revoke anything, seeing it is not safe or right to act against conscience. God help me. Amen."

This argument struck at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church's teachings that the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, and that the deposit of faith includes both the Bible as interepreted by the Church and the sacred traditions and doctrines of the Church. The tradition of the Church is that she has never dogmatically contradicted herself, and that Luther was incorrect in attempting to follow only the Scripture, which in the opinions of the Catholic Church has its authority only as far as the Church has itself bestowed authority on it. (See Article: Biblical Canon)

Edict of Worms

The Papal nuncio at the Diet, Girolamo Aleandro, drew up and proposed the fierce denunciations of Luther that were embodied in the Edict of Worms, promulgated on May 25. These declared Luther to be an outlaw and banned the reading or possession of his writings. It permitted anyone to kill Luther without legal consequence. The Edict was a divisive move that distressed more moderate men, and in particular Erasmus.

Despite the agreement that he could return home safely, it was privately understood that Luther would soon be arrested and punished. To protect him from this fate, Prince Frederick seized him on his way home and hid him away in Wartburg Castle. It was during his time in Wartburg that Luther began his German translation of the Bible.

When Luther eventually came out of hiding, the Emperor was preoccupied with military concerns, and because of rising public support for Luther among the German people, the Edict of Worms was never enforced. Luther continued to call for reform until his death in zu Worms (1521) it:Dieta di Worms (1521) pt:Dieta de Worms


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