Sweden gets its first-ever cardinal: Anders Arborelius

Bishop Anders Arborelius has become Sweden's first-ever cardinal, in an historic appointment by Pope Francis, who visited the normally very secular country last year.

Sweden gets its first-ever cardinal: Anders Arborelius
Pope Francis and Anders Arborelius. Photo: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Pope Francis created five new cardinals in a ceremony in the Vatican starting at 4pm on Wednesday: Sweden's Arborelius, along with four new cardinals from El Salvador, Spain, Laos and Mali.

Sweden in particular, with its Lutheran church and even strongly secular profile, stands out among the five countries, which are all, except for Spain, peripheral in the Catholic world.

Anders Arborelius at the ceremony in the Vatican. Photo: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Apart from being the first Swede to be appointed as cardinal, 67-year-old Arborelius became the first Catholic bishop of Swedish descent since the reformation in the 16th century in Sweden when he was named Bishop of Stockholm in 1998.

The cardinals belong to an elite group of members of the Catholic church, acting as the closest advisors to the Pope. Cardinals aged under 80 take part in the naming of a new Pope – and theoretically it makes Arborelius eligible to become Pope himself in the future.

“Formally, it's the case, but it is completely ruled out. As a Swede you are somewhat in the margin after all and you don't have the same insight into how the world church works as someone who is a little bit more in the centre,” Arborelius recently told the TT newswire.

Pope Francis with, from left, Jean Zerbo, Archbishop of Bamako, Mali; Juan Jose Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona, Spain; Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm, Sweden; Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Apostolic Vicary of Pakse, Laos; and Gregorio Rosa Chavez, Auxiliary of the dioceses of San Salvador, El Salvador. Photo: L'Osservatore Romano/Pool photo via AP

Pope Francis visited southern Sweden last year to mark the start of a year of celebrations for the Reformation – the dramatic 1517 event that created a Protestant branch of Christianity which rebelled against papal rule.

BLOG: Pope Francis' first day in Sweden

POPE: Why Swedish men look for non-Swedish women