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World

Pope Francis Commemorates 500th Anniversary Of Protestant Reformation

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther hammered his 95 theses to a church door triggering one of the biggest rifts in Christianity. Today, Pope Francis took steps to mend that gap. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports on the pope's historic visit to a Lutheran Cathedral in Sweden.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Pope Francis was warmly welcomed at the nearly 1,000-year-old Lund Cathedral, which was once Catholic. He walked alongside Lutheran leaders in a historic show of unity to commemorate an event that led to centuries of religious wars. The Reverend Martin Junge, general secretary of The Lutheran World Federation, addressed the mutual enmity directly.

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MARTIN JUNGE: In the 16th century, Catholics and Lutherans frequently not only misunderstood but also exaggerated and caricatured their opponents in order to make them look ridiculous.

POGGIOLI: The schism followed the German monk Martin Luther's denunciation in 1517 of widespread corruption and abuse in the Catholic Church. Today, the pope said Catholics and Lutherans have begun a common journey of reconciliation.

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POPE FRANCIS: (Through interpreter) Now we have a new opportunity to accept a common path. We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have prevented us from understanding one another.

POGGIOLI: But he added, we have no intention of correcting what took place but to tell that history differently. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Malmo, Sweden Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.