The extension of Pope Francis’ trip to Sweden by one day to accommodate a papal Mass for the nations’ Catholics does not detract from the ecumenical power of the trip, but actually highlights the need for Christian unity, said the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation.
Initially, Pope Francis had planned to make a day trip to Sweden on 31st October to take part in two ecumenical events launching a year of commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. But at the urging of local Catholics, the pope decided to spend the night and celebrate Mass on 1st November before returning to Rome.
The Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the LWF, told reporters at the Vatican that the Lutherans fully understand the desire of Catholics in Sweden to have Mass with the pope and the pastoral responsibility of the pope to fulfill that request.
“Of course,” he said, “it is also going to reveal that we are not yet united; it is going to reveal a wound that remains there” since the divisions between Catholics and Lutherans mean that in general Eucharist sharing is still not possible.
While Rev. Junge and other Lutheran leaders have accepted an invitation to attend the Mass, the fact that they will not receive Communion “is going to be a strong encouragement to continue working toward unity,” he said.
Picture: A statue of Martin Luther is seen onstage as Pope Francis arrives for an audience with a pilgrimage of Catholics and Lutherans from Germany in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on 13th October. The pope will visit Sweden from 31st October to 1st November for commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters).