New Bishop in Finland

I had the privilege of attending the Mass of Ordination for Bishop Teemu Sippo the new bishop of Helsinki (and all of Finland). He is the first Finnish born Catholic bishop of Finland since the Reformation.

The ordination was held in the Cathedral of Turku, which was Catholic originally but has been Lutheran for the past 500 years. The mass was attended by Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox bishops and clergy and about 2000 people. The cathedral had to turn away prospective attenders a half an hour before the service.

The principal celebrant was Cardinal Karl Lehmann, Archbishop of Mainz.

Rejoice in the Lord!

How wonderful!

What is the state of the Church in Finland? I know that Finnish Christians are mainly Lutheran; is the Catholic Church growing?

Sounds wonderful! Imagine a cathedral filled beyond capacity, pretty cool. If my memory serves me correct, Scandinavian nations have been leading the way in not-so-Church-friendliness, so more good news (and my memory is not always correct)!

How wonderful!

What is the state of the Church in Finland? I know that Finnish Christians are mainly Lutheran; is the Catholic Church growing?

I’ll try to answer both questions.
The Catholic church in Finland has between 10 & 11 000 members. About half of those members are immigrants and ex-pats. The Parish to which I belong, in Turku, has many Vietnamese members. The pastor is from Poland originally (speaks 7 languages) and the assistant is of Vietnamese birth who came to Finland with his family as a child in the relief of “Boat People”.

Most of the Finns in the Catholic Church are, like me, converts. The membership is about half ethnic Finns. Bp. Sippo converted from the Lutheran church as a teenager. His brother and sister-in-law were received into the Church this past Easter Vigil, as was I.

The church is relatively small and concentrated in the Helsinki area. There are two parishes in Helsinki and 5 others scattered around the country in the cities of Turku, Kouvola, Tampere, Jyväskylä, and Oulu. All of the cities, except for Kouvola, are university towns and major industrial centres. Kouvola is a port and industrial city close to the Russian border.

Each of the parishes has a pretty large area of “diaspora”. Pori belongs to the diaspora of Turku. We are the northern limit of their territory. To go to the Mass yesterday was about a 2 hour drive each way. One of the priests, usually Peter, comes up to Pori once a month for Mass.

We have a congregation of about a dozen of whom come out to Mass fairly regularly. Most of the members are of Polish background.

There are people taking what would be equivalent to RCIA.

Sounds wonderful! Imagine a cathedral filled beyond capacity, pretty cool. If my memory serves me correct, Scandinavian nations have been leading the way in not-so-Church-friendliness, so more good news (and my memory is not always correct)!

The filling of the Cathedral was in part curiosity, lots of invited guests, and rejoicing Catholics. I watched the taped (and edited) mass on TV this morning. It was broadcast on YLE TV 1 nationally. The editing job was actually quite good capturing the essence of the Mass. Now I saw and heard what I missed on site. I was seated behind a pillar, and some people were standing in between me and the nearby monitor. The sound system was not set up well on site and the wireless mikes worn by the principals were not patched into the cathedral’s sound system…

The Scandinavian people are not unfriendly to the church in general. Most people are indifferent to religion. The great majority of people belong to a church, mostly Lutheran, but are not active. Most young people are confirmed, married in church, have their children baptized, and those of any age who end up in hospital talk to the chaplains, the army has chaplains at every duty station, and the great majority will have a church funeral.

The Catholic church is recognized by Lutherans as being the root from which they have sprung. The Orthodox church is quite large and visible. In Pori we use the space of the Orthodox church for Mass.

The social structure is seen by many, Americans in particular, as being very liberal especially in areas of human sexuality and reproductive matters. People are expected to act in a civil manner and decisions on matters of conscience are accepted. (One Lutheran sect, the Lestadians, are known for large families and the refusal to use any artificial birth control)

I could get into many more issues but I better end this ramble and wait for more specific questions.

Blessings to all,

Thanks, Harri; that is all quite interesting and enlightening, as I imagine most of us know very little about the Church in Finland.

Congratulations to the Church in Finland on your new Bishop! May the Lord continue to bless your nation in the years ahead.

My wife and I are very interested in what you said about the Church in Finland. I wonder if you could say more about the return of Catholicism to Finland?
The Passionist priest that married us is now a missionary in Sweden, and we have heard some of the same things about Catholicism there.

The history of the Catholic Church in Finland since the Reformation is fairly recent.

Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia in 1809. With the arrival of Tsarist troops, there were Catholics among them, along with Jews. Both groups became established at that time.

Catholics were under the Diocese of St. Petersburg and almost all of them were soldiers and served by military chaplains.

With Finnish independence and the setting up of the U.S.S.R. in 1918 the Catholic bishop moved to Finnish territory. Until the installation of Bp. Sippo the bishops came from The Netherlands and Poland.

As I said only about half of Finnish Catholics are ethnic Finns, most are immigrants.

Evangelism is not highly public, but it goes on in small ways. Masses are publicized and catechesis often precedes Mass.

Do you mean Turku was Catholic originally but has been Lutheran for 5 centuries, or that the cathedral there was Catholic but is now Lutheran?

Turku was the original capital city of the Swedish province of Finland. The Cathedral was started in the late 12th century. A portion of that original cathedral is still standing as part of the sacristy.

The cathedral became Lutheran along with the rest of the country with the Reformation. The cathedral still serves as the primary church of the Lutheran Church of Finland and the Archbishop has his seat in Turku.

Helsinki became the capital in the 19th century when the Tsar wanted the capital to be closer to St. Petersburg than to Stockholm. The “Great Church”, the cathedral of Helsinki, so familiar in tourist and news photos, was built in the late 19th century.

Fascinating. I wonder how often it occurs in the world that a Catholic bishop is installed in the building of another faith or denomination.

[quote= Harri Laaksonen]those of any age who end up in hospital talk to the chaplains, the army has chaplains at every duty station, and the great majority will have a church funeral.
[/quote]

It sounds like the Lutheran church is the established state church. Has there been any talk of disestablishing the Lutheran church? Or has that already happened, but there just hasn’t been a vigorous separation of church and state?

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