Scandinavia: time for conversions” “

Support for the values of life and the family; promotion of vocations; opening to consecrated life; evangelization of culture: these are some of the priorities indicated by John Paul II to the bishops of the five countries of the Scandinavian Episcopal Conference (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland), who were in Rome for their “ad limina visit” last week. According to Bishop Josef Wrobel of Helsinki, capital of Finland, a significant aspect of the Catholic presence in countries like those of Scandinavia with a large Protestant majority is represented by the high number of conversions to the Church of Rome: “In Finland, there were some 300 in 2002, a number small in itself but significant if compared with the small flock of 8,000 Catholics registered. Another important factor is the presence of neocatechumenal families, alongside three priests of the Neocatechumenal ‘Way’, who are working very productively at the side of the Finnish clergy, consisting of no more than 20 priests”. Also in the view of Bishop Gerhard Schewenzer of Oslo, capital of Norway, president of the Scandinavian Episcopal Conference, conversions to Catholicism (on average a hundred or so per year) represent a very significant signal of the growth of the Church in the Nordic countries. For Denmark the most important problem is the slowness of ecumenical dialogue: “Relations with the Lutheran Church are difficult – explains Archbishop Czeslaw Kozon of Copenhagen – and this is due to the identity, in the popular consciousness, between Lutheran Church and State, which recognizes it as the official religion. An event that clearly highlighted these difficulties was the publication of ‘Dominus Jesus’, which undoubtedly irritated the Danish Lutheran Church. Danish Catholics, however, despite being few in numerical terms (1% of the population, with 80 priests and 234 sisters) are active and continue to register conversions to Catholicism. There were some sixty last year, though in previous decades the average was or the order of 200 per year”.

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