Pope’s statement raises questions among Swedish Catholics

Påven Franciskus


You cannot be Catholic and sectarian. That’s why the Pope didn’t plan to celebrate Mass in Sweden. The statement was made in an interview with Pope Francis, made by Swedish jesuit and editor Ulf Jonssons in September. It was recently published in the jesuit magazine Signum as well as in the Swedish newspaper Dagens nyheter:
”We must strive to be together with others. «Catholic» and «sectarian» are two words incontradiction. This is why at the beginning I wasn’t planning to celebrate a Mass for theCatholics on this trip. I wanted to insist on an ecumenical witness.”

Later on the Pope reflected deeper on his role as a shepherd and on the request from the Catholic minority in Sweden and he then changed his mind. But the Pope’s statement has raised many questions among Swedish Catholics. I social media Catholics express sadness and dismay at the Pope´s statement: Is it sectarian to wish for a Catholic Mass in Sweden? Is it a non-ecumenical request?
– 18 000 Catholics are looking forward to celebrating Mass with the Pope, the atmosphere is really festive, everybody’s thrilled that he’s visiting. And then you get this thrown in your face. The pope doesn’t want to celebrate Mass at all – it’s even wrong to do it in this context. Really cool. Not.
– Using the word sectarian is most unfortunate when talking about a small minority church rejoicing in the visit of their Holy Father.

Some have also asked themselves if the Pope actually did make that statement, or if it is all a misunderstandin, but Ulf Jonsson confirms that Pope Francis did use those words. He regards it a general statement rather than a dictum aimed only at Catholics in Sweden, though; it’s simply a principal for the Pope’s own reasoning. Since Catholicism and sectarianism are opposed to eachother Catholics should be open to dialogue with other Christian groups and also with groups of other religious faiths.
– It doesn’t mean any kind of theological relativism though. In the interview the Pope states very clearly that the theological dialogue is necessary. There is a need to solve those theological issues that still remain unsolved between Lutherans and Catholics, and the Pope says he thinks this will be a very difficult task. As a way forward he recommends practical collaboration between the different groups, but without ignoring the importance of the difficulties, Ulf Jonsson says.

Ulf Jonsson also says to Katolskt magasin that in his opinion there is no doubt whatsoever that the Pope really wants to celebrate Mass with the Swedish Catholics. But at first he didn’t intend to.
– When he started making plans for the trip he thought only about the ecumenical elements. Then there were requests that he should celebrate mass, as well as requests that he shouldn’t. When the Pope started reflecting on the issue he, independently, decided that he should, due to his pastoral responsibility for the Catholics in our countries. And that’s the end of it.

Ulf Jonsson stresses that the Pope does indeed make his own decisions in these matters and that he certainly doesn’t let himself be pressured by anyone.
– He is, however, very anxious that the Mass won’t be used against the Lutherans, in an anti ecumenical way. That’s why Mass is taking place another day and in another place. That’s the way the Pope wants it, Ulf Jonsson says, and he adds that he hinks the Swedish Catholics should be loyal to the Pope in this decision.


Bitte Assarmo


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