POPE FRANCIS’ TRIP TO SWEDEN SHOWS THE CHURCH IS ‘WILLING TO GO OVER TO THE OTHER SIDE’, WRITES CHRISTOPHER LAMB PREMIUM
03 November 2016 | by Christopher Lamb | The TABLET
By making bold gestures of reconciliation and encouraging Churches to work together for social justice, Pope Francis appears to be taking a fresh course towards healing divisions
Nearly 500 years after Martin Luther sparked one of Christianity’s deepest splits by challenging abuses in the medieval Church, Pope Francis sought to draw a line under a bitter history of division. This week he travelled to Sweden, where he stood side by side with Lutheran leaders at events that commemorated the Reformation. His bold and generous gesture represents a new moment in Catholic-Protestant relations, and validates the Catholic Church’s sometimes hesitant journey towards Christian unity.
In Lund, Francis heaped unprecedented praise on Martin Luther, and gave thanks for the spiritual fruits of the Reformation; he embraced the female leader of the Church of Sweden, Archbishop Antje Jackelén, and told a 10,000-strong crowd in Malmö that Catholics and Lutherans should work more closely together to help refugees and save the planet.
Despite the fact that Pope Francis has recently affirmed the Vatican view on women clergy as a non-issue, He is here seen to acknowledge (and Embrace?) the Women clergy of the Lutheran Church at his meeting with Lutherans at a Swedish Commemoration of the Protestant Reformation.
This sign of Pope Francis’ willingness to meet with Women Leaders of the Protestant Church would seem to contradict the official line of the Catholic Church that women will never be ordained as clergy or bishops but, as we all know, Rome is not absolutely free from reversal of previous doctrinal ‘certainties’. One instance is that of the Church’s openness, recently, to the reception of Holy Communion by divorcees.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand