Pope to attend ceremony marking 500 years since Reformation

Pontiff will travel to Lund, Sweden, for ecumenical commemoration

Pope Francis talking during his visit to the Lutheran church in Rome on November 15th last year. He is to take part in a joint Catholic-Lutheran service in Sweden in October. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters

Pope Francis will travel to Sweden in October for a joint ecumenical commemoration of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

The pope's unprecedented, but not unexpected, participation at the commemoration in Lund, Sweden, was jointly announced by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation.

Although the joint ecumenical service will essentially feature Lutherans and Catholics, it is expected representatives of the Anglican Communion, the Baptist World Alliance, the Moscow Patriarchate, the Salvation Army and other groups will attend the ceremony.

The one-day event, on October 31st, takes place in the southern Swedish city of Lund, where the Lutheran federation was founded in 1947. Catholics and Lutherans will say a “common prayer”, agreed earlier this month as part of preparations for the commemorations for the 500 years of the Reformation in 2017.


Martin Luther

The German Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, is considered to have started the Protestant Reformation on October 31st, 1517, when he nailed 95 Theses on Indulgences on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. His theses protested against clerical abuses of the time.

October’s joint service may upset Catholic traditionalists. In the “common prayer”, Catholics and Lutherans thank God for “the many guiding theological and spiritual insights” from the Reformation.

The announcement follows a weekend when Pope Francis stepped into the Italian public debate on proposed legislation to legalise unmarried heterosexual and homosexual unions. He reiterated traditional Catholic teaching by saying there must be no confusion “between God’s design for the family and any other type of union”.

While sympathetic to the advocacy of the rights of same-sex couples, the Catholic Church remains strongly opposed to same-sex marriage and to any attempt to equate same-sex unions to marriage between a man and a woman.