Pope greets Catholic mi­nor­ity in sec­u­lar Swe­den

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pope Fran­cis held a pub­lic mass yes­ter­day for the Catholic mi­nor­ity in Swe­den, a Lutheran but sec­u­lar coun­try where same-sex mar­riage is al­lowed even for priests. The Ar­gen­tine pon­tiff ad­dressed an es­ti­mated 15,000 mem­bers of the coun­try’s Ro­man Catholic mi­nor­ity, many of them con­verts or mi­grants, at a sta­dium in the south­ern Swedish town of Malmo, home to a large im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion.

“Meek­ness is a way of liv­ing and act­ing that draws us close to Je­sus and to one an­other. It en­ables us to set aside ev­ery­thing that di­vides and es­tranges us, and to find ever new ways to ad­vance along the path of unity,” Pope Fran­cis said, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial trans­la­tion of his re­marks. “One very elo­quent sign of this is that here in your coun­try, marked as it is by the co­ex­is­tence of quite dif­fer­ent peo­ples, we are jointly com­mem­o­rat­ing the fifth cen­te­nary of the Re­for­ma­tion,” the pope said be­fore he headed back to Rome. A fer­vent ad­vo­cate of Chris­tian unity, Fran­cis vis­ited the south­ern city of Lund on Mon­day for an ec­u­meni­cal ser­vice mark­ing the start of a year of cel­e­bra­tions for the Re­for­ma­tion­the dra­matic 1517 event that cre­ated a Protes­tant branch of Chris­tian­ity which re­belled against pa­pal rule. The event in Lund, where the Lutheran World Fed­er­a­tion was founded in 1947, also marked 50 years of rec­on­cil­ia­tory di­a­logue be­tween the Catholic Church and Lutheranism, a tra­di­tion once fer­vently hos­tile to the author­ity and teach­ings of the Vat­i­can. To­gether with Swe­den’s fe­male arch­bishop An­tje Jack­e­len and other Lutheran lead­ers, the pope ex­pressed deep re­gret over the schism and called for unity. Hailed as “a breath of fresh air” by Lutheran lead­ers, Fran­cis raised hopes early in his pa­pacy that he might steer the Church towards greater ac­cep­tance of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, and in June he said Chris­tians “must apol­o­gize” to gays and les­bians for their past treat­ment. An­ders Ar­bore­lius, bishop of the Ro­man Catholic Church in Stock­holm who him­self con­verted from Lutheranism, said the pope’s ap­proach had been one of con­ti­nu­ity, de­spite a “pro­gres­sive” im­age com­pared to his pre­de­ces­sors. “Pope Fran­cis comes from an­other con­ti­nent and has a dif­fer­ent way of ex­press­ing things, but one can­not say that he has changed any­thing in the teach­ings,” he said.

‘We need women priests’

Swe­den’s Lutheran Church is among the most lib­eral in Chris­ten­dom. A pi­o­neer in women’s and LGBT rights, it has been ap­point­ing fe­male priests since 1960, a step the Catholic Church is still re­luc­tant to take. “I think the Catholics have to change. We need women priests,” Inge­borg Sten­strom, a Catholic and re­tired doc­tor from Ger­many who lives in Swe­den said. Fig­ures re­leased in 2010 showed that 45 per­cent of Swe­den’s nearly 4,500 priests were fe­male. — AFP

MALMO: Pope Fran­cis greets a hand­i­capped well-wisher as he ar­rives at the Swe­den­bank Sta­dium in Malmo, Swe­den, where he held a mass. — AFP

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