500th birthday of 'Great Reformer' John Calvin nears

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John Calvin, the Great Reformer, used dictatorial means in making Geneva a "Protestant Rome," but he also planted the seeds of modern democracy.

He enforced rigid morality and stressed the importance of helping others, while he also had a share in developing capitalism. He supported the destruction of religious statues and other images, but described the arts as gifts from God.

This is how Calvin's role in history is being assessed by theologians and historians in countless lectures, studies and biographies 500 years after he was born on July 10, 1509. The quincentenary is being observed around the globe with the Geneva-based World Alliance of Reformed Churches acting as a central organizer of "Calvin 09."

Although he remains a controversial figure, Calvin's teachings are still profoundly influential. Events marking the Calvin year range from congresses and exhibitions to concerts and theater performances. His portrait is on a special Swiss postage stamp and souvenirs are for sale.

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