By Philippa Hitchen
The medieval cathedral in the southern Swedish city of Lund will be the setting for a Catholic celebration of the Eucharist for the first time since the days of the Reformation.
The chaplain of the Lutheran cathedral and the Catholic parish of St Thomas announced on Tuesday that the initiative follows on from the historic visit of Pope Francis to the city in October 2016 for a joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Since the Pope and leaders of the Lutheran World Federation stood together in the ancient cathedral, praying for forgiveness and pledging themselves to closer spiritual and practical cooperation, Catholics and Lutherans in Lund have been meeting regularly in each other’s churches for ecumenical Vespers.
Strengthening Lutheran-Catholic relations
One of the main promoters of this monthly initiative is the chaplain of the cathedral, Rev Lena Sjöstrand, who says the papal visit to Lund and the nearby city of Malmö “touched so many people”. She says that through these continuing celebrations, people are happy to see that the visit was not merely “a one-off event”, but rather a concrete way of strengthening relations between the two Christian communities.
This autumn, the Catholic parish of St Thomas will close for major restoration work and the cathedral has offered to host the community on Sundays. The first Catholic Mass since the Reformation will be celebrated there on October 21st and will continue on a weekly basis until the parish church is ready for use again in the spring.
From Conflict to Communion
Promoters of the initiative note that the development also reflects the spirit of the 2013 joint document ‘From Conflict to Communion’, which focused on the fruits of fifty years of dialogue since the Second Vatican Council.
The ancient cathedral, dating back to the 11th century, was originally dedicated to St Lawrence and became the religious heart of the region during the Middle Ages. It is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Common journey of reconciliation
Beneath its austere stone arches, Pope Francis and the Lutheran leaders spoke of their “common journey of reconciliation”. They also signed a joint statement recommitting Catholics and Lutherans to witness more closely together, “to remove the remaining obstacles” that stand in the way of full Christian unity.
The statement urges parishes and communities “to be bold and creative, joyful and hopeful” in their common witness and service to their neighbours in need. This latest ecumenical initiative is another important milestone, putting into practice the spirit of that historic encounter.