- May 26, 2020
Although the main event of Pope Francis’s Sweden visit on Monday and Tuesday are the two commemorations with global Lutheran leaders, the Lutheran-Catholic relationship on the ground reflects both cooperation and major differences, despite the fact that if all Sweden’s 115,000 Catholics turned up in Rome, they’d struggle to fill St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Francis’s decision to stay on in Sweden an extra day following next Monday’s Reformation commemoration in order to say Mass with the local Church will be a spur to overcome remaining divisions, according to the general-secretary of the World Lutheran Federation.
The English bishop William Kenney is a key figure in the official Catholic-Lutheran dialogue, and will be with Pope Francis in Sweden at the end of the month. He believes unity is a matter of decades away, and it’s possible that Francis may use the trip to make a gesture on inter-communion.
Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, the country’s only Catholic bishop, say most native Swedes who join the Church come from university circles and are attracted by its embrace of reason, its theological depth, and its social doctrine.
After making it possible to exit on-line, Norway’s Lutheran state church saw 25,000 people exit in August, the biggest one-month drop in its history, while only 1,200 people joined, in part reflecting the fact that Scandinavia is arguably the most secular region of the world.
Closing his special jubilee Holy Year of Mercy the way he opened it, Francis will devote special events in the fall to jubilee celebrations with prisoners and the homeless, sandwiched in between trips to Georgia and Azerbaijan and also to Sweden for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.