Pope arrives in Sweden for what he calls important ecumenical event

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

MALMO, Sweden (CNS) — Under a
thick gray sky, Pope Francis was welcomed to Sweden with a small formal
ceremony, which conveyed by its brevity that the trip was not a formal state
visit, but had another purpose.

Flying to Malmo Oct. 31, Pope
Francis told reporters the trip was a “very important ecclesial
event” because of its ecumenical focus. He also asked the journalists help
in explaining the trip “so that people understand it well.”

Arriving at the Malmo airport, he
was greeted by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and by Archbishop Antje
Jackelen, primate of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, as well as by the country’s
lone Catholic bishop, Bishop Anders Arborelius of Sweden.

A military band played the Vatican
and Swedish national anthems as the pope and prime minister stood facing
Sweden’s flag, which is blue with a yellow cross. Members of the general public
were not present for the welcoming ceremony.

The pope met briefly in an airport
VIP lounge with Prime Minister Lofven before traveling to Igelosa, a medical
research center outside Lund, which transformed a room in its conference center
into the papal residence for his 26-hour stay in Sweden.

After an early lunch, Pope Francis
was to travel to Kungshuset in Lund for a meeting with King Carl XVI Gustaf and
Queen Silvia and their children and grandchildren.

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