Despite being one of the most secularised nations in the world, Sweden is one of the few European countries where the Church is growing, said the country’s first cardinal, Crux reports.
This kind of revival shows “it is possible to live a good life as a Church even if we are few,” Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Stockholm told CNS on Wednesday.
“Maybe that sign of hope is something we could offer to those countries that are experiencing a very severe process of secularisation,” he said.
Elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis in June, the cardinal was in Rome this month to take possession of his “titular” church - Michelangelo’s Basilica of St Mary of the Angels and Martyrs.
The 68-year-old Cardinal said he could see a connection between this urban parish in Rome and his cathedral in Stockholm as members of both communities dedicate much time to working with the poor and marginalised, and with immigrants from Catholic and Christian communities.
While the Catholic Church in Sweden is just a small minority in a once predominately Lutheran country, all the Christian communities there “have a common voice on migration and refugees,” he said. “And now we are more critical against the official policy” because the government is making it difficult for family members to be reunited in Sweden and young people are being expelled.
Many of the immigrants and refugees are settled in parts of Sweden where there is available housing, but few or no Catholic parishes, he said. That means “our main concern is to find them and show them that the Catholic Church is present in Sweden.”
The rapid growth of the Church has presented the problem of building enough churches and parish structures, he said.
But now, “we are able to buy Protestant churches that are not used anymore” because of changing demographics and the fact that fewer people are practicing their faith, Cardinal Arborelius said.