Royals and Persson at Pope?s funeral

Sweden’s royals, politicians and church leaders represented the country at the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome on Friday. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia were accompanied at the ceremony by Prime Minister Göran Persson and Archbishop KG Hammar, head of the Church of Sweden.

They were part of one of the largest gatherings of heads of state and government ever seen. American President George W. Bush was joined by former presidents George Bush Sr., and Bill Clinton. Leaders as diverse as King Abdullah of Jordan and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Speaking to journalists in Rome, Göran Persson reflected on Sweden’s relationship with the late Pontiff:

“We have not always had the same views on things, but nobody can deny the Pope’s role in world politics and his role as a great religious leader.”

Persson noted that Sweden and the Vatican had disagreed on women’s rights, abortion, gay rights and tackling Aids during Karol Wojtyla’s papacy. Persson was nonetheless keen to point out areas of unity, such as questions of peace.

“The work that the Pope has done in dialogue between churches and with other religions is something that has made a great contribution to reducing tension and encouraging reconciliation,” he said

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Sveriges Radio