Francis receives his “dear sister”, head of the Lutheran Church of Sweden
Antje Jackelén is Primate of the Church of Sweden. Among the topics discussed were: the common testimony of persecuted Christians, the shelter given to South Americans fleeing dictatorships, refugees and the climate
“Esteemed Mrs. Jackelén, esteemed sister, dear friends!” This was how Pope Francis addressed Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of Uppsala and Primate of the Swedish Lutheran Church, at their meeting this morning in the Vatican. The archbishop was accompanied by a delegation from the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Sweden. It was an opportunity to discuss topics such as the testimony of persecuted Christians around the world which brings the various denominations together, divisions over life and family that need to be avoided, the upcoming celebration of the 5th
centenary of the Lutheran Reformation in 2017, as well as more specific questions such as the recognition of the welcome given by the Swedish Lutherans to South Americans fleeing dictatorships.
“The call to unity as followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ includes an urgent call for a common effort on the charity front, for the benefit of all those in the world who suffer because of misery and violence and are especially in need of our mercy; the testimony of our brothers and sisters especially, pushes us to grow in fraternal communion,” the Pope said. “The issue of the dignity of human life which must be respected always, urgently needs to be addressed, as do issues relating to the family, marriage and sexuality, which cannot be played down or ignored for fear of jeopardising the ecumenical consensus already obtained. It would be a shame for new denominational differences to form around such important questions.”
Jorge Mario Bergoglio had some words of thanks for two people: “Above all I wish to thank the Swedish Lutheran Church for welcoming so many South American migrants during the dictatorships. This fraternal embrace helped families to grow. Secondly, I would like to thank the delicacy which You, dear sister, showed in nominating my great friend, pastor Anders Root: him and I shared the professorship of spiritual theology and he helped me a great deal in my spiritual life,” the Pope said before expressing his gratitude in English: “Thank you!”.
Antje Jackelén, the first female archbishop of Uppsala, had announced today’s meeting with Francis, underlining that the voice of the Pope – spiritual leader of over a billion Catholics – is fundamental for justice and reconciliation. She also pointed to climate change and the difficult situation faced by refugees in the world, among the issues of common interest. The Swedish Lutheran leader, who will be visiting the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the Church of England at the end of the year, also remembered the 5th
centenary of the Lutheran Reformation in 1517 and the 50th
anniversary of dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans.
The Pope addressed the following topics: “Thanks be to God, last year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II decree on ecumenism, “Unitatis Redintegratio”
, which is still a fundamental reference point for the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism. This document highlighted that we cannot disregard ecumenism. It called upon all Catholics to take stock of the signs of the times and follow the path of unity, in order to overcome the division between Christians, which not only openly opposes Christ’s will but is also a scandal in the world and harms the most holy of causes: the preaching of the Gospel to all creation.” The Pope then recalled the recent document titled “From Conflict to Communion. Lutheran–Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017”, published by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity: “We wholeheartedly hope that this initiative will provide encouragement for further steps to be taken on the path toward unity, with the help of God and our collaboration with Him and between us.” Today, the Pope - who received the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, today – concluded his speech to Swedish Lutherans by saying: “Dear friends, thanks again for your visit. Hoping for a strengthened collaboration between Lutherans and Catholics, I pray that the Lord blesses each and every one of you and your communities abundantly.”