Pope Francis will attend a Catholic-Lutheran service in Lund as part of the countdown to the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation. The Pope's participation is one of three significant events in 2016 to bring major branches of Christianity together after centuries of estrangement, at a time when militant Islam is attacking the faith.
Christians have been under increasing fire in countries where extremists have taken hold.
The Reformation in the 16th century began as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church, but resulted in the founding of breakaway, or Protestant, churches. Historians usually date the start of the movement to 1517 when Martin Luther published his "95 Theses" on Oct 31. Luther, along with John Calvin and Henry VIII, challenged papal authority, dividing Catholic Europe.
Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill met in Cuba on Feb 13, the first time a Pope and a Russian Church leader had done so since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity split in the 11th century. In June, many of the patriarchs of the world's Orthodox Christians met in Crete for the first Ecumenical Council in over 1,200 Years. The third event is the Lund service, which represents the first time a Pope has participated in a service with Lutheran clergy.
The ceremony will be led by the Pope and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) president Bishop Munib Younan, assisted by Catholic and Lutheran bishops from all over Sweden.
The Church of Sweden is the world's largest Lutheran church with more than six million members. The LWF was founded in Lund in 1947.
Date written/update: 2016-02-18