Pope Francis gears for historic Protestant Reformation event in Sweden

(Photo: Osservatore Romanot)Pope Francis received a refugee's teapot as an invitation to work together for the suffering neighbor when he met a group from the Lutheran World Federation in 2013.

Pope Francis will make history when he attends ceremonies in Sweden at the end of October to start the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformation would lead to centuries of hostility between Catholics and Protestants in Europe and other parts of the world.

The Pope's trip to the Nordic country Oct. 31-Nov. 1 will focus heavily on ecumenical relations, especially with the Lutheran Church, Catholic News Service reported.

Francis will join Lutheran leaders for an ecumenical prayer service in their cathedral in Lund and move with them to an ecumenical event at a sports arena in Malmö Oct. 31.

Pope Francis, Lutheran World Federation President Bishop Munib Younan and LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge will lead the common prayer service and arena event in cooperation with leaders from Church of Sweden and the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm.


The events will culminate in the Reformation anniversary Oct, 31, 2017.

The commemoration marks the day in 1517 on which Martin Luther is said to have posted his 95 theses denouncing church abuses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther's actions set in motion events that led to the Reformation and the division of Western Christianity into Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.

The events following the Reformation pitted Catholics and Protestants against one another for many years.

In recent years, however, Roman Catholics and Lutherans have reached agreement on the doctrine of justification, a key dividing issue between the papacy and Luther and his followers.

This means many doctrinal differences should no longer have a church-dividing character, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and umbrella for Lutheran and other Protestant churches.

Organizers are asking a 10-euro ($11.20) donation for tickets for the event in the Malmö Arena.

All the proceeds will go to projects run by the Lutheran World Federation and Caritas Internationalis for Syrian refugees in the Middle East. Joint work on behalf of the poor and needy is a key component of how the Vatican and the federation have said Catholics and Lutherans should mark the anniversary of the Reformation.

Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk, priest and theologian and, "had no intention of establishing a new church but was part of a broad and many-faceted desire for reform," said a Catholic-Lutheran document issued in anticipation of the anniversary, CNS reported.

The commemorations, it said, are not a celebration of "the division of the Western church. No one who is theologically responsible can celebrate the division of Christians from one another."

The morning Mass Pope Francis will celebrate Nov. 1, the feast of All Saints, also will be in Malmö Arena.

According to Vatican statistics, there are about 110,000 Catholics in Sweden, less than 2 percent of the population in a country where the dominant church if the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden.

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