The Latest: Pope, Lutheran leader sign joint statement

LUND, Sweden (AP) " The Latest on Pope Francis' visit to Sweden (all times local)

4 p.m.

Applause rang out in the Lund Cathedral as Pope Francis and the president of the Lutheran World Federation, Bishop Munib Younan, signed a joint statement pledging to improve relations between Catholics and Lutherans.

The joint statement was the high point of Francis' historic visit to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

At the end of an ecumenical service, Francis and Younan signed the document, pledging to improve relations through dialogue while also working together to heal conflicts, welcome refugees and care for the planet.

Applause also erupted at an arena in nearby Malmo, where thousands of people watched the service on a giant screen. The pope will attend an ecumenical event in the arena later Monday.


3:25 p.m.

Pope Francis says Catholics and Lutherans should recognize the "errors" of the past while "moving beyond" the controversies that have divided Western Christianity.

Francis made the comments as he marked the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with a historic prayer service Monday alongside leaders of the Lutheran World Federation in Lund, Sweden.

It was the first time a pope has commemorated Martin Luther's revolt with such a symbolically powerful gesture. Francis even praised Luther for having "given greater centrality" to Scripture in the church's life.

Francis says the anniversary provides an opportunity to examine errors with honesty, to ask forgiveness and to move forward.

He says it's time to "mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another."


2:30 p.m.

Pope Francis is marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with an historic prayer service alongside Sweden's Lutheran bishops.

Francis arrived to applause, hymns and tolling bells at the Lund Cathedral for the start of the service, which was featuring remarks by the pope and the head of the Lutheran World Federation in the presence of Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia.

Francis commemorated Martin Luther's famous revolt by travelling Monday to largely secular Sweden for an ecumenical service in Lund's Lutheran cathedral " the first time a pope has commemorated the anniversary with such a symbolically powerful gesture.

After the Reformation began five centuries ago, Sweden became such a grim place for Catholics that those who rejected the new Lutheran faith were punished with deportation or death. As Protestantism spread, religious wars erupted, including the Thirty Years War in 1618-48, one of Europe's bloodiest conflicts.


2:05 p.m.

Hundreds of people have cheered Pope Francis as he arrived in southern Sweden for a meeting with the country's royals before his historic commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Francis waved to the crowd on a gray, chilly day as he arrived at the Kungshuset palace in Lund for the courtesy call.

The pope's main event Monday is an ecumenical prayer service with Bishop Munib Younan and the Rev. Martin Junge, who represent the 145 churches of the Lutheran World Federation.

The Lund prayer service is the first of its kind since Martin Luther's protest led to the schism in Western Christianity.


1:45 p.m.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says it is "very important" that Pope Francis chose to go to the secular Scandinavian country to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Lofven, a former union boss who leads Sweden's left-leaning Social Democratic Party, greeted the pontiff as he arrived at Malmo Airport in southern Sweden.

Lofven told The Associated Press minutes before Francis set foot in Sweden that "of course it's is very important for Sweden that the pope has chosen to be here" to underline the cooperation between the Vatican and the Lutheran church.


10:40 a.m.

Pope Francis' plane has arrived in Sweden a few minutes ahead of schedule in Malmo.

He went immediately into an airport audience with Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. After the brief meeting, Francis left the airport in a Fiat for another meeting with Sweden's king and queen and an ecumenical prayer service at the cathedral in nearby Lund.

Francis frequently uses Fiats and other economy cars on his foreign trips, a conscious display of simplicity for a pope who has chastised priests and nuns who lust after the latest phones or cars.

Francis came to secular Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, a remarkably bold gesture given his very own Jesuit religious order was founded to defend the faith against Martin Luther's "heretical" reforms five centuries ago.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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