Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Tuesday for Sweden’s tiny Catholic community, made up of many refugees and migrants, praising as “blessed” those in this overwhelmingly non-religious nation who take in asylum seekers.
The main purpose of the pope’s two-day trip was to take part in a joint commemoration with Lutherans of the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation.
After the historic inter-religious ceremony on Monday, Francis turned his attention to largely secular Sweden’s record of accepting tens of thousands of asylum seekers last year, in contrast to many other European nations.
In a football stadium packed with some 15,000 spectators, Francis weaved his homily around Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” which lists the Beatitudes, but added a few modern twists.
“Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness,” the Argentine-born pontiff said. “Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.”
Francis’s statement held special symbolism in Malmo, which has become a gateway for thousands of immigrants who have fled from Middle East wars over the last few years.
The Mass was also a shot in the arm to Sweden’s small Catholic community, which numbers only about 150,000 out of a population of about 10 million. That total is less than the attendance for some papal ceremonies in Rome.