Today in Christian History

February 7

February 7, 1478: Thomas More, lord chancellor of England during the English Reformation, is born. Though he idealized freedom of religion in Utopia (1516), he supported the punishment of heretics and Protestants like Martin Luther and William Tyndale. He retired from office rather than acknowledge Henry VIII's divorce and was beheaded for refusing to acknowledge Henry as head of the church (see issue 16: William Tyndale).

February 7, 1817 (traditional date): Abolitionist Frederick Douglass is born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland. After escaping to freedom, he became the most prominent of the black abolitionists and eventually became the first black to hold high political office, as consul-general to the Republic of Haiti (see issue 62: Bound For Canaan).

February 7, 1938: After years of being closely watched by Nazi secret police, Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller is put on trial. He was subsequently confined in a concentration camp, but he survived and went on to hold a leadership role in the World Council of Churches from 1948-1968 (see issue 32: Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

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February 11, 1790: The Society of Friends (Quakers) presents a petition to Congress calling for the abolition of slavery.

February 11, 1858: Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant from Lourdes, France, experiences her first vision of the Virgin Mary. By July she had 18 similar visions.

February 11, 1929: The Lateran Treaty is signed by Mussolini and the Holy See, recognizing Vatican City as a sovereign state. At a mere 109 acres, it became the smallest nation in the world.

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