Aboard the papal plane:

Pope Francis arrived in Malmö, Sweden, this morning to participate in a Joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and celebrate Mass with Swedish Catholics on All Saints Day tomorrow.

Under gray, autumnal skies, the papal plane landed at Malmö’s international airport ten minutes ahead of schedule, at 10.50am local time. The Pope was welcomed by among others Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Bishop Anders Arborelius, head of the Swedish Catholic Church, and the head of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, Archbishop Antje Jackelén.

The Holy Father, in good humor and looking well and rested, briefly greeted journalists on the plane on the way over, saying “this is an important trip, very special because it is an ecclesial journey, very ecclesial in the field of ecumenism.”

He added: “Your work will be a big contribution in making sure people understand well.”

Francis is the first pope to participate in such an ecumenical event that commemorates the Reformation. The event coincides with the culmination of years of theological dialogue during which Catholics and Lutherans signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999, and in 2013 published a shared history of the 16th century schism with the document ‘From Conflict to Communion’.

After the welcome ceremony, the Pope was driven to the papal residence of Igelösa for lunch. The Holy Father was then taken to the Kungshuset Royal Palace in Lund where he spent time meeting Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia and their family. At 2.30 pm local time, he arrived at Lund Cathedral where he delivered a homily at a Common Ecumenical Prayer service, the most significant ecumenical event of the trip (check back here for a report).

Later today, he will arrive at Malmö Arena where he will participate in a second ecumenical event, deliver a discourse and respond to a number of testimonies from people present.

At 6.10pm, he will meet the heads of ecumenical delegations before leaving for Igelösa for supper at 7pm.

Tomorrow morning, the Pope will celebrate an open-air All Saints Day Mass for Sweden’s relatively small community of 113,356 registered Catholics.

For a preview of the visit, see my Oct. 17 article here.