Catholics and Lutherans alike were keen to be in Lund and Malmø i southern Sweden on Monday to celebrate mass or just get a glimpse of a visiting Pope Francis. Both the Lutheran and Catholic bishops of Oslo claimed it was an historic day for both churches.
It’s been 27 years since a pope set foot on Scandinavian soil, when John Paul II came to Norway in 1989. He visited the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim and held a huge mass outdoors on the grounds of the Akershus military complex in Oslo on June 1, which attracted thousands of worshippers.
Pope Francis traveled to Sweden to mark the symbolic reformation day of October 31, at the start of the 500th year since Martin Luther publicized his criticism about the Catholic church’s practices. On Monday, in the presence of the king and queen of Sweden at the cathedral in Lund that served as Europe’s largest archdiocese from 1060 until 1536, the pope and the head of the Lutheran church signed a document of reconciliation.
Norway’s Catholic Bishop Bernt Eidsvig, who was among those invited to Lund on Monday, called it an historic and important day, symbolizing the process from conflict to fellowship. Norway’s Lutheran archbishop Helga Byfuglien was also invited, while the leader of the Catholic aid organization in Norway Caritas, Martha Rubiano Skretteberg, was there to meet the pope as well. Skretteberg called Pope Francis a great source of inspiration to Catholics “but also for people from other faiths and those without faith. He’s an important person who has important messages for us regarding solidarity, social fairness and climate and environmental issues.”