Vatican City, Holy See: Pope Francis will visit Sweden in October to mark next year's 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation in Europe, the Vatican said on Monday.
The Argentinian pontiff, a champion of inter-faith dialogue, will attend an ecumenical commemoration ceremony jointly organised by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Lund on 31 October.
In a joint statement, the two churches said the event would "highlight the solid ecumenical developments between Catholics and Lutherans."
It will take place a year before the 500th anniversary of German monk Martin Luther nailing his famous written protest against the Church's abuses of its power to the door of a church in Wittenberg.
The act of defiance of papal authority, which resulted in Luther being excommunicated and declared an outlaw by Rome, is widely considered as the starting point for the Reformation -- a dissenting movement that created a religious and political schism in Europe which took centuries to fully unfold, often violently, and saw the establishment of Protestant churches across most of northern Europe.
The numerous wars, conflicts and waves of repression related to the reformation left a legacy of deep mistrust between the Catholic and Protestant wings of Christianity which has only subsided in the last half century.
Martin Junge, the LWF general secretary, said such divisions belonged to the past.
"I'm carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we are working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence," he said in a statement.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Vatican's Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), echoed the theme.
"By concentrating together on the centrality of the question of God and on a Christocentric approach, Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility of an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, not simply in a pragmatic way, but in the deep sense of faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ."
The Lund event is part of a dialogue process in which the Lutheran and Catholic churches are attempting to agree on a common account of the painful events of the reformation.
The two Churches agreed in 1999 on a joint statement addressing the theological issues at the root of the upheaval.
These included questions such as whether humans could earn their place in heaven through good deeds or whether salvation comes exclusively through the grace of God.
Luther and his followers also championed the Bible's translation into local languages and its status as the sole source of divine authority as well as fighting the systemic sale of indulgences and other forms of clerical corruption.