(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Tuesday for Sweden’s Catholic community, gathered in an open air stadium in the southern city of Malmo. The Mass, marking the Solemnity of All Saints, followed a day of ecumenical celebrations as the Pope and leaders of the Lutheran World Federation led an unprecedented joint commemoration of the Reformation.
Philippa Hitchen is in Malmo and sent this report on the Mass marking the concluding event of the two day papal visit.
It’s not often a Pope comes to Sweden, a country with only one diocese, where Catholics number just one percent of the population. Pope John Paul was the last pontiff to visit the country during his 1989 tour of the Scandinavian nations which were the heartland of the Protestant Reformation.
But it was to this small Catholic flock that Pope Francis dedicated his last day in Sweden, urging them to follow in the footsteps of the saints. Despite grey skies and a sharp autumn chill in the air, thousands of people travelled from all over the country and beyond to give the Pope a warm welcome as he entered the stadium at the start of the Mass, accompanied by the Bishop of Stockholm Anders Arborelius.
In his homily, delivered in Spanish with a Swedish translator, the Pope said holiness is not seen so much in great deeds and extraordinary events, but rather in daily fidelity to the demands of our Baptism.
One characteristic of the saints, he said, is that they are genuinely happy people – that’s why they are known as blessed. He recalled in particular the 14th century Saint Bridget of Sweden, co-patron of Europe, and the 20th century Saint Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad, a Swedish nurse whom he canonised in St Peter’s Square earlier this year. Both of them, he stressed, prayed and worked to create bonds of unity and fellowship between Christians, enabling us to jointly commemorate the fifth centenary of the Reformation today.
The example of the saints, Pope Francis said, can encourage us to respond to current challenges with fresh spiritual energy. He concluded with a suggested list of modern Beatitudes to inspire Christians today, including blessed are those who show closeness to the abandoned and marginalised, blessed are those who protect and care for our common home and blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians. Amen.