Pope to visit Sweden for 500th anniversary of Protestant Reformation

Pope Francis is to travel to Sweden in October to commemorate the birth of Protestantism, a Christian faith which broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century, the Vatican said Monday.

"His Holiness Francis intends to participate in a joint ceremony of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the [Protestant] Reformation [in 2017]," a statement said.

The event, featuring joint prayers between Catholic and Protestant leaders, is scheduled to take place on October 31 in Lund, a town in southern Sweden near the Oresund bridge that connects the Scandinavian peninsula to Denmark.

"I'm carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we are working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence," LWF General Secretary Reverend Martin Junge said in a separate statement.

The one-day visit is the second a pope makes to Sweden. In 1989, Pope John Paul II also visited the Scandinavian country.

Archbishop Antje Jackelen, the first woman to head the Swedish Lutheran Church, told Swedish Radio: "The Reformation did a lot of good but you can't ignore the fact that it also has caused pain, division and hurt."

The meeting in Lund falls on Reformation Day, which commemorates Martin Luther's posting of his controversial 95 theses against what he saw as rampant abuse and corruption within the Renaissance Catholic Church.

The Reformer Luther criticized the sale of indulgences - granting a remission of temporal punishment due to sin - to raise money for the building of St Peter's Basilica in Rome, and also argued that the faithful should be allowed to have a more personal relationship with God, with less interference from the clergy.

Since the groundbreaking reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has intensified efforts to improve relations with other Christian faiths, with the long-term aim of achieving greater unity between them.

Last update: Mon, 25/01/2016 - 16:15
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