‘I thank God for giving me the chance to come to Sweden’

'I thank God for giving me the chance to come to Sweden’
The Pope speaking to culture minister Alice Bah Kuhnke before leaving Sweden. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT
Around 20,000 watched Pope Francis say Catholic mass in Malmö's Swedbank Stadium on Tuesday in the last major event of his visit to Sweden. The Pope had previously attended two ecumenical services on Monday to mark the 500-year-anniversary of the Reformation.

The worshipers in the Malmö stadium greeted Francis with cheers and applause as he rolled onto what would normally be the pitch-side area on a small vehicle at around 09.30am. The Argentinean spent almost 20 minutes circling the ground and greeting those who were fortunate enough to be at the front of the stands.

“We are Catholics from Iraq and this was incredibly big for us,” Malmö residents Bushra and Ashuak, who were in the front row of their section when the Pope came to greet them, told Swedish news agency TT.

READ ALSO: Full coverage of the first day of the Pope's visit to Sweden

The mass started with a procession towards the large stage which had been built on the stadium’s north stand, from where the Pope then went on to hold mass for over two hours. In his All Saints’ Day service the Pope mentioned Swedish saints Elizabeth Hesselblad and Bridget, as well as “all of the great men and women around us who do great things without gaining recognition”.

At the end of the service, Stockholm’s Catholic Bishop Anders Arborelius read a statement thanking the pontiff in Spanish.

“Thank you for showing us your eternal love, for looking at us with your care-filled eyes, and your service. Your humility and sincerity. Thank you for speaking to all the Christians. And reminding us of our duty to work together,” he said.

“Thank you for showing us the revolution of tenderness,” Arborelius added, referring to the Pope’s comments on Monday.

“At the end of this celebration I want to think mister Arborelius for his kind words,” The Pope responded in a statement of his own.

“As well as the work done by the authorities and everyone else who participated in the preparation for the visit. A cordial salute to the president and secretary general of the Lutheran World Federation, and the archbishop of the Swedish church,” he added.

“I thank God for giving me the chance to come to this country and meet you all, many of whom came from various parts of the world,” the Pope said in closing.

After the mass, Pope Francis travelled to Malmö airport for a brief official farewell ceremony at 12.30pm. A huge police convoy escorted him onto the tarmac, with the pontiff travelling in a humble-looking Fiat as has been habitual throughout his trip.

At the airport, Swedish culture minister Alice Bah Kuhnke said farewell, as did Swedish Church archbishop Antje Jackelén and Stockholm Roman Catholic Bishop Anders Arborelius. Francis then ascended the steps, stopped for a brief wave, and entered the awaiting aircraft to begin the journey back to Rome and bring his short but historic visit to Sweden to an end.