Lutheran-Catholic unity high on Pope’s agenda in Sweden

Lutheran-Catholic unity is high on the Pope’s agenda during his official trip to Sweden this week.

“My hope and expectation is that of coming closer to my brothers and sisters,” he said.

Being close “does all of us good. Distance, on the other hand, makes us bitter.”

Francis says distance makes us “close within ourselves and we become individual entities, incapable of encountering each other. We are held back by fears.”

Instead, he thinks we need to learn “to transcend ourselves to encounter others,”.

If this doesn’t happen, he said even Christians “become sick because of our divisions.”

During his trip, Francis will pray privately at Lund’s Lutheran cathedral before taking part in a larger ecumenical event in Malmö.

He will then celebrate Mass on All Saints Day. This was not on his schedule, but added after Sweden’s small Catholic community.

Most Swedes (6.2 million) are Lutheran. The next biggest religious group is Muslim, – 5% of Sweden’s 9.6 million population.

Francis said he chose not to celebrate Mass at first. His aim instead was to promote unity, and avoid sectarian divisions.

“You cannot be Catholic and sectarian. We must strive to be together with others,” he said.

He went on to explain  that “‘Catholic’ and ‘sectarian’ are two words in contradiction,”.

Rather than Mass, he says he “wanted to insist on an ecumenical witness.”

He changed his mind after reflecting on his role as pastor of Scandinavian Catholics. This and the Catholic community’s request changed his mind. He then decided to celebrate a Mass, lengthening the trip by a day.


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