Decet Romanum Pontificem

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Decet Romanum Pontificem

Decet Romanum Pontificem (English: It Befits the Roman Pontiff) (1521), the papal bull excommunicating Martin Luther, bears the title of the first three Latin words of its text.[1] It was issued on January 3, 1521 by Pope Leo X to effect the excommunication threatened in his earlier papal bull, Exsurge Domine (1520), since Luther had failed to recant.[2] Luther had burned his copy of Exsurge Domine on December 10, 1520 at the Elster Gate in Wittenberg to indicate his response.

There are at least two other important papal bulls with the title Decet Romanum Pontificem: one dated February 23, 1596, issued by Pope Clement VIII, and one dated March 12, 1622, issued by Pope Gregory XV.

Toward the end of the 20th century, Lutherans in dialogue with the Catholic Church requested the lifting of this excommunication, but the Roman Curia responded that its practice is to lift excommunications only on those still living. Roland Bainton, in "Here I Stand after a Quarter of a Century", his preface for the 1978 edition of his Luther biography, concluded: "I am happy that the Church of Rome has allowed some talk of removing the excommunication of Luther. This might well be done. He was never a heretic. He might better be called, as one has phrased it, 'a reluctant rebel.'"

Luther's rehabilitation has been denied, however, by the Vatican: "Rumors that the Vatican is set to rehabilitate Martin Luther, the 16th-century leader of the Protestant Reformation, are groundless," said the Vatican spokesman, the Jesuit Federico Lombardi.[3]


  1. ^ Papal Encyclicals Online. "The Bull "Decet Romanum Pontificem" – Leo X Excommunicates Martin Luther – Rome, 1521 January 3rd". Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  2. ^ Doak (2006) p. 12
  3. ^ Vatican spokesman calls rumors of rehabilitation of Luther groundless Catholic News Service, March 10 2008


  • Doak, Robin (2006). Pope Leo X. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books. ISBN 0-7565-1594-7.

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