Historic Meeting between the Archbishop of Uppsala and Pope Francis

Magnus Aronson/IKON
Magnus Aronson/IKON

Yesterday Archbishop of Uppsala, Antje Jackelén, led a delegation of Lutherans to the Vatican 26 years after Pope John Paul II visited the Nordic nations. Archbishop Jackelén is head of the Lutheran Church of Sweden. Vatican Radio reports that Archbishop Jackelén is the first female head of the Church of Sweden and the first female archbishop to be welcomed to the Vatican for an official papal audience.

In her address to Pope Francis, Archbishop Jackelén spoke about the progress made between Catholics and Lutherans in their joint dialogues. She spoke about the joint document “From Conflict to Communion” and the joint commemoration of the start of the Reformation. She also spoke about the challenges facing the world, including poverty, injustice, the plight of Christians in the Middle East, the death of migrants in the Mediterranean, and climate change.

In his address to Archbishop Jackelén, Pope Francis warmly greeted the archbishop and reminded her that last year was the fiftieth anniversary of Unitatis redintegratio, the decree on ecumenism. In speaking about the decree he noted that it…

expresses a profound respect and appreciation for those brothers and sisters separated from us, to whom in daily coexistence we at times risk giving little consideration. In reality, they are not perceived as adversaries or as competitors, but instead acknowledged for what they are: brothers and sisters in faith. Catholics and Lutherans must seek and promote unity in dioceses, in parishes, in communities throughout the world.

He also noted that much work still has to be done, but that we must to work towards full unity in the sacraments and ecclesial ministry.

Pope Francis also drew attention to the common ministry of both churches to the plight of people around the world. The need for unity implies…

a pressing exhortation to joint commitment at the charitable level, in favour of all those who suffer in the world as a result of poverty and violence, and have a special need for our mercy; the witness of our persecuted brothers and sisters in particular drives us to grow in fraternal communion.

More information about their visit can be found at Vatican Information Service.

I join Archbishop Jackelén and Pope Francis in their hope that one day Lutherans and Catholics might again share the body and blood of Christ together in communion with one another.

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10 comments

  1. I’m very glad for this milestone. However, I know a number of instances in which Lutherans and Roman Catholics are regularly sharing the body and blood of Christ together in communion – I can’t possibly be the only one who does. But it’s always nice when the official hierarchical pronouncements catch up with the Church.

  2. I’m amused by the title of the Vatican Information Service story at the last link: “Catholics and Lutherans are brothers in faith, not adversaries.” Presumably, “brothers” is meant to include both male and female, but let’s not reopen the translation wars.

    Back in February, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton traveled to Rome and met with Pope Francis as part of a “general audience” (according to the ELCA news release on her trip), which I presume is different from a “papal audience.” Thus, while Jackelén’s visit may be the first papal audience with a female Lutheran archbishop, Francis has met at least one female Lutheran of that rank prior to her.

  3. Diplomatically receiving heads of national churches is fine and well. Issues of ordination and apostolic succession aside, I’m not sure, though, how much unity there can be when Archbishop Jackelén denies the essential truth of the Virgin Birth and considers it to be an optional belief. Denying bits and pieces of the Creed is a bit of a show stopper, I’d think.

  4. Whenever I visit my brother-in-law in Oregon, he, my wife, and I (Catholic, Catholic, Lutheran, respectively) attend a joint Lutheran-Catholic parish. They share the Liturgy of the Word (using Lutheran and Catholic lectionaries in alternate years), then separate for the Eucharist. It’s a vibrant little community.

    1. Reply #6: Will you share more on this community, please? Location, name, etc? As a Lutheran Pastor who grew up Roman and who had joyfully attended the RC Ecumenism class at the Centro Pro Unione, I would LOVE to serve a community like this.

      Having been recently treated like a lay person at my little brother’s funeral in a Catholic parish in Milwaukee, how I would have loved to have served even as I did at my father’s funeral in 2001 when the priest invited me to preach and distribute the chalice. What a difference 14 years made!

    2. Only the memento of the dead in Eucharistic Prayer II is contrary to Lutheran doctrine (the name of the pope can just be conveniently dropped). The remainder of this eucharistic prayer is not theologically problematic for Lutherans to my knowledge. I understand why a Catholic bishop in particular would insist on strict separation of the eucharistic celebrations. Would a Lutheran pastor truly object to saying EP2 without the memento, given that EP2 is for the most part the verba with a few brief comments? Is this a possible ecumenical convergence?

      1. There is a Lutheran version of Eucharistic Prayer IV; I’ve never heard either version actually used in either church, but the two texts are quite close.

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