The closing of St. Ansgar’s League in New York City was celebrated with a beautiful mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in February, led by no less than three of Scandinavia’s Catholic bishops: Bishop Czeslaw Kozon of Denmark, Bishop Anders Arborelius of Sweden, and Bishop Pierre Burcher of Iceland.
Earlier we reported on the closing of St. Ansgar’s League in New York City, which was celebrated with a beautiful mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in February. Three of Scandinavia’s Catholic bishops officiated: Bishop Czeslaw Kozon of Denmark, Bishop Anders Arborelius of Sweden and Bishop Pierre Burcher of Iceland. In his wonderful homily, Bishop Arborelius touched on issues faced by most Scandinavian Catholics of today:
“We also have the task to evangelize the culture and society where we live. It is by no means an easy task. A secular and materialistic society is not very eager to receive the gospel. Still, in the hearts of many people there is a hidden longing for God and his love. Sometimes, you are stunned to see that even in those people who never would dream of entering a church or opening a Bible there can be a true openness to God’s mystery. It is also quite surprising to see that there is a deep understanding of the role of Mary among some people in our post-protestant Nordic culture. Actually, after the reformation, when Our Lady was chased away from the churches, she remained in the realm of nature and culture. So many flowers and insects were named after Mary, and even the cows were called Rosa and Star. So many poets wrote lovely poems about Mary. After all, we venerate her as the Queen of the North. And when Pope John Paul II came to us in 1989, he consecrated Northern Europe to Our Lady in Reykjavik. The typical Scandinavian virtues, serenity, silence, solitude, simplicity and sincerity, all have a touch of Mary.”
After mass, a reception was held.
The Catholic Church in Sweden
The Roman Catholic Church in Sweden, or simply the Catholic Church in Sweden, is a relatively small but growing branch of the Catholic Church, constituting two percent of the population of the predominantly Lutheran country. It is one of the fastest growing Catholic Churches in Europe, despite the widespread secularism in Sweden. The Catholic Church was the established church of Sweden from the Middle Ages until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, when King Vasa broke off relations. He established the Church of Sweden, based on the teachings of Martin Luther. That was the only legal church in Sweden until the middle of the 19th century, when other churches were allowed. However, it remained a state church until it was disestablished in 2000. Prior to this, the Catholic Church had only existed in the form of independent congregations in Sweden, for example, the Diocese of Stockholm, which was founded in 1953. However, the changes in 2000 made it possible to become officially registered and recognized by the government of Sweden. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockholm is the only Catholic diocese established in Sweden since the Reformation. It covers the entire country of Sweden, including 42 parishes and about 87,000 members.
Bishop Anders Arborelius was born to Swedish parents in Sorengo, Switzerland, and grew up in Lund in southern Sweden. He converted to Catholicism at the age of 20 and entered the Carmelites. He studied in Bruges and Rome and was ordained a priest in 1979.