A Catholic Mass will be celebrated next October in the medieval cathedral of Lund, where Catholics have not worshiped since the days of the Reformation.
On Tuesday, the chaplain of the Lutheran cathedral and the Catholic parish of St Thomas jointly announced that Catholic Masses will be offered in the cathedral on Sundays beginning next October 21, when the local Catholic parish will be temporarily closed for major restructuration. The cooperative effort is fruit of the visit of Pope Francis to the city in October 2016 for a joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, organizers said.
The Lund cathedral was consecrated in 1145 as the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Lawrence and at that time, the southern Swedish city of Lund—which was then a part of Denmark—had become the headquarters of the Catholic archdiocese that included the whole of Scandinavia.
The church, which is considered a leading example of Nordic Romanesque architecture, became Protestant when Denmark adopted Lutheranism in 1536, and was subsequently stripped of statues, medieval artwork, side altars, and reliquaries. Until the year 2000, the Lutheran Church of Sweden was the official state church.
During his 2016 visit, Pope Francis met with Lutheran leaders in the cathedral, where they signed a joint statement recommitting Catholics and Lutherans to witness more closely together and “to remove the remaining obstacles” that stand in the way of full Christian unity.
The current chaplain of the Lund cathedral, the Rev. Lena Sjöstrand, said that Pope Francis’ visit to Lund and the nearby city of Malmö “touched so many people” and folks are pleased to see that the visit was not merely “a one-off event,” but a way of strengthening relations between the two Christian communities in Sweden.
Sweden bears the distinction of being the least religious nation in the Western world, with nearly 80 percent of the population identifying either as “not religious” or “convinced atheists,” according to a study carried out by polling firm WIN/Gallup International.
In 2016, Sweden opened its first “atheist cemetery” with a strict policy banning all religious symbols in order to accommodate the nation’s massive nonbelieving population. Although the Church of Sweden is forbidden from expressing Christian beliefs on cemetery property, it nonetheless manages the upkeep of the graveyard.
While Christian practice in Sweden is languishing, mosque attendance has reportedly been rising steadily thanks to large numbers of Muslim immigrants arriving in Sweden in recent years. Sweden has been referred to as the “world’s capital of asylum seekers” and some 17 percent of Swedes are now foreign-born.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome