The Pope stressed the uniting of all the Christian denominations

An ecumenical delegation all the way from Lutheran Church of Finland was welcomed by Pope Francis. The visit marked Feast of St. Henrik. The pontiff said to the visitors that the ecumenical pilgrimage is a clear sign that the Lutherans, Catholic, and Orthodox church members have recognized the factor uniting them and they wish to bear witness to Jesus Christ, the original foundation of unity.

The delegation consisted of Irja Askola, the Lutheran Bishop, Metropolitan Ambrosius, Orthodox Church of Finland and Helsinki's Bishop Teemu Sippo of the sole Catholic diocese in Finland. It was lead by Askola.

Finland has a predominantly Lutheran population. Out of five and a half million people, about 1.1 percent is registered Orthodox Christian. Approximately 12,000 individuals follow the Catholic faith. Bishop Askola made history by being first female bishop of Finland's Evangelical Lutheran Church. She was elected to the post in 2010.

In his speech directed towards the Finnish delegation, Pope Francis expressed his thanks for the constructive result of dialog between Catholics and Lutherans. He mentioned in particular the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.” He said that such dialogues are helping to progress towards a shared understanding on the sacramental level of ministry, the Church and the Eucharist. He continued and said that these steps lay the solid basis for a greater communion of spiritual and faith life as the relations develop in the spirit of fraternal sharing and serene discussion.

The Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican at conclusion of Christian Unity's Week of Prayer announced that the pontiff will visit Sweden. The trip is scheduled to be done in October. The purpose of the visit is the “ecumenical commemoration” of the 500th anniversary of Protestant Reformation.

When asked about the visit, Bishop Askola said that she is honored to interact with Pope Francis, and his numerous symbolic acts and thought have affected her on a personal level. She said that ecumenism is simply not an option and is an integral part when it comes to Christian identity.  About the pontiff, she said that he was an extremely warm person and it moved her that the Pope called them for praying together, a prayer that unites them, the Our Father. They prayed in their respective language in a touching moment. She said that the Pope has his own method of conveying his message and has an excellent understanding of the symbolic acts.

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