A great “forced migration”, to escape from violence and fear, has brought hundreds of Chaldean Catholics until the furthest lands in Europe. Past February the diocese of Stockholm launched a fund collection to build a church for Chaldeans in Sweden who arrived over the past months as a result of the war in Syria and the terror spread by ISIS; most of them convened in Södertälje, a town thirty km away from the Swedish capital, where today live approximately one thousand Chaldean families. “The Church where I was baptized in Mosul was occupied by the Islamic state. Here we don’t run this risk, I can raise my children as Christians and look forward to a future without fear”: said a young Chaldean mother, Valentina Rufaela, bearing witness to the fact that “for many Eastern Christians who arrived in Sweden Södertälje has become a sort of new Jerusalem, a place where they want to live and create a Christian environment”, Benedicta Lindberg, in charge of fund-collection for the Swedish diocese, told Sarah Numico for SIR Europe. “Persecuted Christians in the Middle East need all the help we can give them”, Linberg added. How did this generous idea come about? “In the Catholic diocese of Stockholm there are large numbers of Chaldeans, and people continue arriving in increasing numbers owing to the situation in Iraq and Syria. At present, they use an ex-Protestant church for their services but it’s too small and it direly needs repairing. The Chaldean faithful need a new place of worship. Moreover, the Protestant church is not appropriate for the Chaldean rite. Bishop Anders Arborelius thus promised a church. Already in October 2013 the economic Council of the Catholic diocese of Stockholm had decided that a new church needed to be built. Past January an agreement was signed to proceed with its construction and our goal is to begin construction works in Spring 2016. The related planning and fund-collection are under way”. Are there other Chaldean churches in Sweden? “No, this will be the first. In reality, there is need not only of a church but also of a meeting place, which is the reason why this church will also be a cultural centre. There are many children in Södertälje who need to attend catechism and hold meetings. The church offers an opportunity for refugees and newcomers to familiarize with Swedish culture, while the language will further integration. The church is the first place that newcomers think of when they need help and advice”. Who will it be dedicated to? “The church – designed for 300 faithful – will be dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, since Catholics in this area wanted a Marian shrine for many years. We hope the new temple becomes a destination of pilgrimages and a place to venerate the Holy Virgin. The Chaldean church will be a symbol of unity for all Catholics and a place for ecumenical encounter”. What are the expected costs? “The cost of the project is estimated at approximately 75 million Swedish crowns” (some 8 million euro, ed.’s note) How much money has already been collected? “We already have some 20 million Swedish crowns that are the fruit of a previous fund-collection, carried out a couple of years ago. Fund-collection activities ongoing since February have delivered some 800 thousand crowns”. Is Sweden’s Catholic community large enough to collect all the sums? “With the help of generous donations we think it will be possible to collect money. The church will be built in cooperation with the German Bonifatiuswerk, a Catholic organization whose main goal is to support Catholicism in the areas with a protestant majority”. What are the reactions to your campaign? “There are many positive reactions, and above all, the Chaldeans are waiting to have their new church. They’re working hard to collect all the money needed. There are positive reactions also from the Swedish society”.
Södertälje is a "new Jerusalem" for those fleeing from the Middle East. The diocese of Stockholm took action to give a "home" to the Chaldean community