Pope Francis visited Sweden to mark the 499th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther split with the church and wrote his famous 95 theses. At the heart of Luther’s dissent was the Catholic practice of selling of indulgences, a common happening even though it was officially frowned upon by the church. (An indulgence is a way to mitigate punishment for one’s sins.) Nearly 500 years later, Pope Francis believes that Luther’s dissent was ultimately good for Catholicism.
“With gratitude we acknowledge that the Reformation helped give greater centrality to sacred Scripture in the church’s life,” Pope Francis said in the thousand-year-old Lund Cathedral in Sweden, presenting a joint declaration with Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation. The age-old schism between the Lutheran and Catholic churches has never fully healed. In the joint declaration both men pledged to “renew our commitment to theological dialogue” between the churches. The Pope met with King Carl XVI of Sweden. King Carl XVI has a busy calendar these days. In December he’ll give out the Nobel Prizes, including one for Bob Dylan, who has been a member of almost all religions.