Austen Ivereigh: Pope’s Sweden trip a lab experiment in Catholic-Lutheran cooperation

(Crux) Because Pope Francis’s Sweden visit on Monday and Tuesday will be mainly focused on the joint global Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the Protestant Reformation in Lund, it is all too possible to overlook the country’s tiny but growing Catholic community, and its relationship to the majority Lutherans.

(Just how tiny can be pictured: If all Sweden’s 115,000 Catholics, less than one percent of its population, turned up in Rome, they’d struggle to fill St. Peter’s Square.)

It’s so easy to forget the Catholic footprint in Sweden, in fact, that for months after the papal visit was announced- the first in 30 years – the pope wasn’t even scheduled to say Mass with the country’s Catholics.

He had been due to go for one day only, in order to lead, jointly with the general secretary of the worldwide Lutheran World Federation, Rev. Martin Junge, two ecumenical events on Sweden’s southern tip: a prayer service in the Lund cathedral, and a justice-and-peace celebration with young people in Malmö arena.

But after local Catholics objected, Francis agreed to stay overnight and celebrate Mass with them on Tuesday morning at another stadium in Malmö which holds 26,000.  The event is now close to being sold-out.

The decision has caused dismay in the Swedish Lutheran Church, which has been keen to downplay the Mass. [More]