Together with the president of the Lutheran World Federation in Jordan, Bishop Munib Younan and general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation from Chile, the Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, Pope Francis presided at a deeply symbolic prayer service in Lund Domkyrkan, marking a new step in the relationship between the two communions. Among clergy and laity of many churches and countries, they asked for the forgiveness of sins committed against each other in the past and pledged to work and witness closer together in the future.
Monday’s special liturgy united Catholics and Lutherans from all parts of the globe who gathered in prayer, peace and music of different languages and diverse religious traditions. The ecumenical celebration, structured around the themes of thanksgiving, repentance and commitment to common witness, was an unprecedented joint commemoration of the Reformation, recognizing the deeply meaningful and significant steps toward healing and reconciliation, a confirmation "of our desire to advance toward full communion,” the Pope said.
From the holy setting of the cathedral, the Pope and the Lutheran leaders traveled to Malmö, where thousands of cheering people were waiting inside the local hockey arena. Pope Francis celebrated mass there on Tuesday for Sweden’s Catholic community, marking All Saints’ Day and featuring testimonies and music that reflected how Catholics and Lutherans are working together on urgent issues of the day, from supporting refugees to combating climate change, from educating orphans in Africa to promoting peace in Syria.
Reflecting on and thanking God for the Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Pope summoned the large crowd for a great gesture of solidarity toward outcasts and marginalized persons: “We remember this anniversary with a renewed spirit and in the recognition that Christian unity is a priority, because we realize that much more unites us than separates us. The journey we have undertaken to attain that unity is itself a great gift that God gives us. With his help, today we have gathered here, Lutherans and Catholics, in a spirit of fellowship, to direct our gaze to the one Lord, Jesus Christ.”
The Pope spoke about practical cooperation between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, and he urged Sweden's Catholics to be modern day saints. He‪ proposed six new Beatitudes to “confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the love and spirit of Jesus." And, thanking God for this opportunity of Christian unity, he added, "Closeness does all of us good. Distance, on the other hand, makes us bitter."
After 26 super charged, pastoral hours in Sweden, during which he also enjoyed time with King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Archbishop Antje Jackelen, Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, as well as the country’s only Catholic bishop, Anders Arborelius, Pope Francis then returned to Rome.