RELIGION

Pope Francis Meets With Female Head Of Church Of Sweden, Archbishop Antje Jackelén

05/07/2015 04:06 pm ET | Updated May 07, 2015
PONTUS LUNDAHL via Getty Images

The Vatican made history Monday when Pope Francis welcomed a woman archbishop to an official audience at the Apostolic Palace for the first time, according to Vatican Radio.

Archbishop Antje Jackelén, the first female head of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, tweeted her gratitude for the meeting to the pope, with a photograph of the two religious leaders chatting.

The pontiff has staunchly opposed ordination for women in the Catholic Church. “The Church has spoken and says no... That door is closed," he said in a July 2013 press conference.

The topic on Monday's agenda was not, however, women's role in the church, but rather the need for Christian unity across denominations and for better care for the poor. Francis addressed the archbishop as "esteemed Mrs. Jackelén, esteemed sister" in his call for charity.

“The call to unity as followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ includes an urgent call for a common effort on the charity front," Francis said, according to Vatican Insider. "The testimony of our brothers and sisters especially, pushes us to grow in fraternal communion."

Christians must address the "issue of the dignity of human life" and issues relating to the family, such as marriage and sexuality, the pope said. He also thanked Jackelén and the Swedish Lutheran Church for welcoming South American migrants who have fled from dictatorships.

Jackelén spoke about the struggles of Christians in the Middle East and pointed to the crisis refugees crossing the Mediterranean and the need to combat climate change as areas of shared interest for religious leaders, according to Vatican Insider.

Strengthening the Christian community, she said, requires “sharing the richness of traditions rather than building fences around one’s own turf," Vatican Radio reported.

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