The Latest: Hundreds cheer Pope Francis' arrival in Sweden

The Latest on Pope Francis' visit to Sweden (all times local):

2:05 p.m.

Hundreds of people have cheered Pope Francis as he arrived in southern Sweden for a meeting with the country's royals before his historic commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Francis waved to the crowd on a gray, chilly day as he arrived at the Kungshuset palace in Lund for the courtesy call.

The pope's main event Monday is an ecumenical prayer service with Bishop Munib Younan and the Rev. Martin Junge, who represent the 145 churches of the Lutheran World Federation.

The Lund prayer service is the first of its kind since Martin Luther's protest led to the schism in Western Christianity.


1:45 p.m.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says it is "very important" that Pope Francis chose to go to the secular Scandinavian country to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Lofven, a former union boss who leads Sweden's left-leaning Social Democratic Party, greeted the pontiff as he arrived at Malmo Airport in southern Sweden.

Lofven told The Associated Press minutes before Francis set foot in Sweden that "of course it's is very important for Sweden that the pope has chosen to be here" to underline the cooperation between the Vatican and the Lutheran church.


10:40 a.m.

Pope Francis' plane has arrived in Sweden a few minutes ahead of schedule in Malmo.

He went immediately into an airport audience with Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. After the brief meeting, Francis left the airport in a Fiat for another meeting with Sweden's king and queen and an ecumenical prayer service at the cathedral in nearby Lund.

Francis frequently uses Fiats and other economy cars on his foreign trips, a conscious display of simplicity for a pope who has chastised priests and nuns who lust after the latest phones or cars.

Francis came to secular Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, a remarkably bold gesture given his very own Jesuit religious order was founded to defend the faith against Martin Luther's "heretical" reforms five centuries ago.