for Sunday, 23 February 2014
“Therefore you are to be perfect, says Jesus, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5, 48)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This word of Jesus today is valid for everyone and especially for the religious.
On the 31st of January 2014, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of the Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, informed that Pope Francis had decided, on the 29th of November last year, that 2015 would be the Year for Consecrated Life. “First of all,” the Cardinal said, “this Year dedicated to consecrated life has been prepared in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council … Because we recognize these 50 years that separate us from the Council as a moment of grace for consecrated life, as marked by the presence of the Spirit that leads us to live even our weaknesses and infidelities as an experience of God's mercy and love, we want this Year to be an occasion for 'gratefully remembering' this recent past".
Like every year, I recently invited our religious in Iceland to a meeting. Together we prayed, ate, shared and celebrated Mass. This meeting was also a sign of our appreciation to nearly 40 religious men and women who now work and pray in the Catholic Church in Iceland. There are 8 religious priests and the following sisters:
The Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, DCJ, in Akureyri and Egilsstaðir.
The Discalced, contemplative Carmelites, OCD, in the Carmelite Monastery, Hafnarfjörður.
The Mexican sisters from Guadalajara, in Landakot.
The Missionaries of Charity, in Reykjavík.
The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, IVE, in Hafnarfjörður and Stykkishólmur.
Most of them are young. They are a sign of hope for our Church! They are a gift from God! Therefore, we are very thankful to God.
Our gratitude to God also relates to the past. Various religious congregations have been working in Iceland for more than hundred years and were a major force of Church life. The Catholic Mission in Iceland was under the responsibility of the Montfortians since 1903. In the 20th Century the Sisters of Joseph of Chambery, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the Carmelite Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy were present in Iceland. They prayed and worked. They built and managed schools. They built hospitals, some of them were the first in Iceland. They even built the largest church in Iceland, at that time, for only 55 Catholics. This is the today's Christ the King Cathedral which is now too small every Sunday! Now the Catholic Church in Iceland owns 17 churches and chapels. But it still has to build or buy more! The number of Catholics has indeed doubled in the last ten years in Iceland! What a great and wonderful work has been done by our priests and religious, with the help of active laymen, all to the glory of God and the service of their fellow man! Certainly mistakes have been made and sins committed, but first and foremost so much good and uplifting! Thanks to God!
Today our eight diocesan priests and our forty religious serve more than 11,000 Catholics in Iceland. Most of the religious are young and they are also very active in the catechesis and youth ministry and help to give the Catholic Church in Iceland a new impetus.
Dear brothers and sisters, in addition I would like to establish a male monastery, if possible with the Benedictines or Augustinians who in the Middle Ages possessed several monasteries in Iceland. We have already found a large piece of land with houses and a heated church in Úlfljótsvatn. Now we have to find a monastic community! I have undertaken a lot to find it and hope soon for a fulfillment of my dream which has become one of many people in Iceland and abroad! This year we especially want to pray for the Vita Consecrata and namely through the intercession of the soon-to-be canonized John Paul II. The cross which reminds us of his pastoral visit to Iceland and the Nordic countries is already standing on the land of Úlfljótsvatn! This year it will be twenty-five years since his visit!
We thank God for all our generous priests and religious as well as for our committed laymen in the young and growing Catholic Church in Iceland. Let us pray, especially this year, for many new vocations among the people of God!
“Therefore you are to be perfect, says Jesus, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Amen.
Your Bishop Peter
Dear brothers and sisters,
The year of faith 2012-2013, with all its events, is now at its end.
Pope Benedict XVI. said shortly before his resignation: “May these
days be a celebration of faith and help us to rediscover the faith of
the Church in its beauty and freshness, to acquire it anew and deepen
it and proclaim it in a new era.
In the Diocese of Reykjavík as in the universal Church, during this
year many events have taken place and here is not the place to list
them all. At the beginning we asked ourselves: "what does this year
mean personally for each one of us, what do we want to do and change
in our lives during the year?"
My personal response was: "I must be a better Christian so I can be a
better bishop”. For me, as for all of you, it meant in particular a
new and profound conversion to the living God. Because my faith and
yours in His Son, Jesus Christ, should through the working of the Holy
Spirit be renewed and strengthened in order to proclaim it and to
bring it to the world.
50 years ago, on 11th October 1962, Pope John XXIII inaugurated the
Second Vatican Council. The Year of Faith began on this anniversary
day, the 11th October 2012. The 50th anniversary was a welcome
opportunity and impetus at the same time to take note of the rich
texts and resolutions of the Council again. Much has been put into
practice but even more awaits to be implemented or further developed,
possibly even adjusted.
For us this year will in particular remain the year of the two popes:
two popes who strengthen us with an exemplary faith! Our personal,
ecclesial and social life has also been marked by various occurrences.
But what remains and where do we go from here?
An answer which points us the way could be the famous dream of St. Don
Bosco in which the story of a sea battle is told. In this dream, the
church is symbolized as a great ship that is attacked by an enemy
fleet, was hit many times, but could recover repeatedly its bearings.
The helmsman of the great ship finally managed to anchor the ship
securely between two pillars that stood out in the sea. The first
carried a large host with the inscription: "Salvation of believers",
and the other, slightly smaller, with a woman and the inscription:
"Help of Christians".
The two pillars symbolize the Holy Eucharist and Mary, the
immaculately conceived Virgin and Mother of God. Together with the
Pope, these are the three pillars in the life of a Catholic in
following Christ our Savior, Christ our King!
The most important thing therefore is what the Catechism of the
Catholic Church says: "The Eucharist is" the source and summit of the
Christian life "(LG 11)."The other sacraments, and indeed all
ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up
with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed
Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely
Christ himself, our Pasch” (PO 5) 1324. "Our way of thinking is
attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way
of thinking." (Irenaeus, 4,18,5).
Dear brothers and sisters, after this year of faith we all proceed
bravely in hope and love! Let us often pray, especially in the Mass,
together with our Holy Father: "Lord, I believe, but increase my
Mary, our Heavenly Mother, will accompany us every day on our way.
Bishop Peter Bürcher, Reykjavik
Press Release 15 November 2013
" We all stand together ! "
Mon. Peter Burchett , Bishop of Reykjavik is greatly saddened because of the great distress which now prevails among residents of the Philippines . He calls on all Catholics in his diocese to support those who live in the disaster areas with prayers and donations.
He encourages every Parish to hold a collection on the last Sunday of the Year of Faith, the 24th November. The money will go to one of the Icelandic charities that are collecting for this purpose.
In his prayers Peter bishop remembers all peoples suffering in Asia , Africa , the Middle East and especially the Filippino community in Iceland; in addition to all the victims in their homeland. Hee thanks the Faithful in advance for all their support.
Because of this and other matters of concern, we are holding a Three day Prayer Vigil in the Cathedral of Christ the King in Landakot on Friday 15th, Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th November 2013. Each Vigil begins with a Mass at 18:00 and lasts until 22:00.
Peter Bishop offers everybody a warm welcome to participate in this sign of solidarity.
Catholic Church in Iceland
Pílagrímsferð Reykjavíkurbiskupsdæmis til Rómar vegna töku Jóhannesar páfa XXIII og Jóhannesar Páls páfa II í tölu heilagra 27. apríl 2014.
Procession of the Cross from Hveragerði to Riftún 2013
Vigil of prayer (pdf)
Help us to register our Catholics
In Iceland there is an official regisration at the National Registry of Iceland for the religious affiliation of all residents. From about 320.000 residents in Iceland, there are some 11.000 registered as Catholics. But it is known that several thousand more Catholics are in Iceland who are not yet registered.
Who has access to the registration?
Only the Church has access to the names and addresses of the registered persons – nobody else. The State has no access to the names or addresses. The State collects only the number of registered persons.
Why is it important to register?
The registration gives the necessary information to the priest about his parishioners and helps him to provide the ministry expected from him.
The Icelandic State grants some financial support to the Church according to the number of registered Catholics. This support is not very high (kr. 697.-/pers./month) but is still very necessary for running the activities of the Catholic Church in this country. The registration does not take one króna from you!
How to register?
One can register directly at the National Registry of Iceland (Þjóðskrá), Borgartún 21, Reykjavík (Office hours: 10:00 to 15:00).
One can register at the Sheriff's office (Sýslumaður).
It is possible to register on-line. Go to <skra.is> and fill out form A-280 (for adults and children of 16 years of age and older) or form A-281 (for children up to 15 years). The form is available only in Icelandic.
Your priest can assist you with the registration. He has the form and can fill it out for you, but you must sign it. Parents sign for their young children. Children 12 years and older must sign for themselves.
Send your registration form to the National Registry of Iceland or to the Catholic Bishop's Chancery, Hávallagötu 14, 101 Reykjavík.
Register, if you have not yet done so.
Invite Catholic relatives, friends, and neighbours to register.
Assist us with visiting newly-arrived Catholic families, welcoming them and helping them to register.
Further information at 552 5388.
Pomóż nam zarejestrować naszych Katolików
Osoby mieszkające na terenie Islandii zobowiązane są do zarejestrowania swojej przynależności religijnej w Krajowym Rejestrze. Z około 320000 mieszkańców Islandii, około 11000 jest zarejestrowanych jako katolicy. Ale według posiadanej wiedzy jest jeszcze kilka tysięcy osób mieszkających w Islandii, które nie są jeszcze zarejestrowane.
Kto ma dostęp do listy zarejestrowanych?
Tylko Kościół ma dostęp do danych personalnych i adresów osób zarejestrowanych i nikt więcej. Rząd nie ma dostępu do tych nazwisk i adresów. Rząd zbiera jedynie dane nt. liczb zarejestrowanych osób.
Dlaczego ważne jest, aby się zarejestrować?
- Rejestracja daje konieczne informacje księżom o ich parafianach i pomaga zaoferować taką posługę, jaka jest od nich oczekiwana.
- Rząd Islandzki przeznacza wsparcie finansowe dla Kościoła według liczby zarejestrowanych Katolików. To wsparcie nie jest zbyt wysokie (kr. 697.-/osobę/miesięcznie), ale jest to wciąż bardzo ważne dla prowadzenia działalności Kościoła Katolickiego w tym kraju. Bycie zarejestrowanym nie kosztuje Cię nawet jednej korony!
Jak się zarejestrować?
Można się zarejestrować bezpośrednio w Krajowym Rejestrze (Þjóðskrá), Borgartún 21, Reykjavík (Godz. otwarcia: 10:00 – 15:00).
Można również zarejestrować się bezpośrednio w biurze Wojewody (Sýslumaður).
Istnieje możliwość rejestracji przez internet. Wchodzimy na stronę <skra.is> i wypełniamy formularz A-280 (dla dorosłych oraz dzieci od 16 roku życia) lub formularz A-281 (dla dzieci do 15 roku życia). Formularze dostępne są tylko w języku islandzkim.
Ksiądz może pomóc w Ci w dokonaniu rejestracji. Posiada formularze i może je wypełnić za Ciebie, ale musisz je osobiście podpisać. Rodzice podpisują za ich małe dzieci. Dzieci 12- letnie i starsze muszą podpisać się samodzielnie.
Wyślij formularz rejestracyjny (deklarację) do Krajowego Rejestru lub do Kancelarii Biskupa, Hávallagötu 14, 101 Reykjavík.
Zarejestruj się jeśli jeszcze tego nie uczyniłeś.
Poproś o rejestrację krewnych, przyjaciół i sąsiadów, którzy są katolikami.
Pomóż nam odwiedzić nowoprzybyłych katolików i ich rodziny witając ich i pomagając im się zarejestrować.
Więcej informacji pod nr. tel.: 5525388.
The death has taken place of Bishop Johannes Gijsen who was bishop of Reykjavik from 1996 to 2007.
He died in his home town of Sittard in Holland on 24th June which was his "Name day" - the feast of St. John the Baptist.
May he rest in peace.
The First Edition
of the Roman Missal in Icelandic
has been Published
From the ceremony in the Cathedral. (Top)
The Bishop presents the President, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, with the first copy.
The Bishop with the Holy Father, Pope Francis.
The Vatican was also presented with a copy, in white.
Holy Mass of Thanksgiving in Cathedral of Christ the King,
On 26th of February 2013 Msgr. Peter Bürcher celebrated Holy Mass in the Cathedral of Christ the King to thank God for the eight successful years of Pope Benedict XVI as head of the Catholic Church and to call on the Holy Spirit for the conclave.
The Bishop´s SermonDear brothers in the priesthood,
Dear distinguished representatives of the Church, political and diplomatic services
Dear brothers and sisters,
I met Pope Benedict many times. Who was he? He confessed himself to be a humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard. As pope for nearly eight years he was this humble worker and he wants to remain so until the end of his life, but now in a more humble manner.
Every time that I met him, I experienced this natural humbleness. It was the humility of a great soul. It is the humility of a man of God. In his recent decision, freely taken, he wants to be the Man of God who loves the Church of God. He feels himself no longer able to serve her as before, and will now serve her humbly in the manner of a prophet and of a man of prayer. He does not forsake the vineyard of the Lord. He will work there in another way. He will continue to serve the Church as a man of God. And I am convinced that this humble and new worker will obtain for the church much fruit, and especially for his successor the shepherd of the world-church.
With much success and also with difficulties Pope Benedict dared to encounter God in humility and in the search for truth. Like St. Joseph his holy patron he was the just one, a man of God. His decision (to retire) says much about his absolute honesty, his intellectual honesty, his honesty with himself and his honesty in wanting to serve the Church for its good. The underlying theme in his eight years pontificate might be summarized in the words “to put God back again in the first place. Just two days after making his decision (to retire) known he said: “It is not easy, publicly to take a stand against decisions, which are regarded as obvious by many. For this, a call to conversion is necessary. One of the elements of this conversion is to put God back in the first place. Then all will be different. We must remember again the words of God, so as to allow their light to penetrate our life. We have, so to say, to dare to encounter God, so that we allow Him to be active in our society.
This is an echo of his first encyclical “Deus Caritas est” from Christmas 2005, which gave the tone for his pontificate from the beginning. “In the beginning of Christianity there is no moral decision, nor a great idea, rather the encounter with an event, with a person who gives our life a new horizon and thereby a decisive direction.
In his gospel St. John describes this event in the following words: “For God so loved the world that he gave his Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should have .. eternal life” (3,16). Is not the starting point of the Christian life, for us as for the first disciples this meeting with Jesus Christ? All follows from this encounter, and Pope Benedict has dedicated himself intellectually in the humble service of this encounter. Let us listen to his words. In a sermon on Dec. 1st 2009 he said: We have heard that the Lord praises the Father because He had hidden the great mystery of the Son, of the Trinitarian mystery, the Christological mystery from the wise and the learned. These have not recognized Him, but He has revealed it to the little-ones, who are not learned, who do not possess great culture.
This leads one to a question which he answers “All leads us to ask: Why is this so? Is Christianity the religion of fools, of people without culture, of the uneducated? Does faith stop when reason awakes? How can we explain this? We must look again at history. What Jesus said, what one can find in every century, that remains true. But there are nevertheless those who are small and at the same time learned. This says much about him who so speaks. He is allergic against poisonous presumptions, against poisonous ambition. The Christian life is characterized by humility before the truth, and exactly because of this should it treasure reason.
The ever-present humility of Benedict XVI lit up and irradiated his extraordinary intelligence. This attitude of humility allowed him to let God take charge and make use of him. It is the grace of a true theologian. To admit ones limitations and weaknesses before God, that is to cloth humility and intelligence in flesh and blood. “We must be content to remain poor and powerless, and that is the difficulty St. Therese of Lisieux, the little Teresa, had already experienced. Thereby did she become the great saint of modern times. I am certain that Benedict XVI, the humble worker who will soon, withdraw into a convent on the Vatican Hill will become more like this saint, that is for the good of the whole church. Amen.
Today the news comes also to Iceland like „a bolt from the blue”: Pope Benedict XVI retires from his pontificate at the end of February. He told the Cardinals in Rome today, that he feels the weight of the task of guiding the Church. Having repeatedly examined his conscience before God, he has made his decision in full freedom and for the good of the Church.
The bishop and the Catholics in Iceland thank the Holy Father for his exemplary and faithful Petrine service. They continue to pray in full unity with him and the Church worldwide.
They endorse the personal words of Pope Benedict XVI: „and now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff.”
With thanks, faith, hope and love.
Bishop Peter Bürcher, Reykjavik
See also here: http://www.vatican.va
Special Sermons for the Year of Faith
Sermon of Bishop Peter Bürcher
in the Year of Faith
“I believe in Jesus Christ ... conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary”.
Dear Brothers and Sisterrs,
What does it mean, “I believe in”? Here, to believe in Jesus Christ, also means “to trust in”, “to count on”, “I give him and his word my full trust”. I should therefore not mix this up with ”I believe that ...”, which means as much as “I suppose that”, or “I think that“, I am not sure that”. No, this has to do with my certain belief in Jesus Christ, in the strict sense of the prayer, “Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief!”
For me the day of my baptism was the most beautiful day of my life. At this celebration the priest asked: What name do you give the child? What do you ask of God’s Church? The faith. And he asked again: Are you ready to raise your child in the Christian faith, so that it will gain everlasting life? Yes. Whoever wants to gain life must keep the commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And: You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. For me and my family everything was clear and the three dimensional direction of life was indicated: Faith, everlasting life and charity.
In this Year of Faith we could look at what the Catechism of Catholic Church has to say about this. This year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of its emergence. (484) The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates “the fullness of time”, (Gal 4,4): The promises come tru, the preparations are completed. Mary is called to conceive him in whom the “whole fullness of deity” would dwell “bodily” (Col 2,9).The divine response to her question, “How can this be, since I know not man?” (Lk 1,34), refers to the power of the Spirit: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Lk 1,35).
Yes my dear loved ones, nothing will be impossible to the Holy Spirit! (485) The mission of the Holy Spirit is always conjoined to and ordered to that of the Son. The Holy Spirit, “the Lord, the giver of Life”, is sent to sanctify the womb of the Virgin Mary and to divinely frutify it, causing her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanity drawn from her own.
In this way a woman, indeed an extraordinary woman, thanks to the Holy Spirit has entered the history of our redemption. A woman named Mary also has her place in our Apostles’ Creed. Isn’t that of great importance for our present understanding of the role of women, and for the ecumenical dialogue of our times?
Yes, Jesus Christ, the Son of God is born of a woman, the Virgin Mary. In the great Creed (Nicene-Constantinople) we pray too: “For us men, and for our salvation, He came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” The Council of Chalcedon in 451 declared the term Theotokos (Mother of God) quite clearly for Mary. The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, so to speak fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature” (LG 56). By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long (493). The Angel said to Joseph about Mary: “It is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Lk 1,20). The prophet Isaiah had already said: “The virgin shall be with child, and bear a son” (Is 7,14).
Christmas is close now! “A child is born for us, it is named Immanuel, God with us!” Through her word of consent and her faith, Mary could truly become the Mother of God. In her whole being she is “the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1,38).
Therefore, my dear Brothers and Sisters, we confess and pray: “I believe in Jesus Christ ... conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary”. Mary will lead us ever more to Christ, the Son of God, and to our heavenly Father. He will send us his Holy Spirit every day in abundance for our joy and for our salvation. We will be new witnesses of the new evangelization. “Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief! Come, oh, Immanuel!” Amen.
Bishop of Reykjavik
Brothers and Sisters. To lead others to faith is always the task of each believer. But how much more so, is this true, during a year dedicated to faith? Jesus Christ our Lord wants to use us for this purpose. He wants us to radiate his light in a dark world.Sr. Denis O´Leary
But it must be his light we radiate, not ours. It must be his Gospel we share, not ours. It must be his will we act upon, not ours. In this context it is important to have a deepening understanding of the Creed. Yes, we know it, recite it and pray it, but have we ever really stopped to think about what it means? Have we meditated on it?
But we must go even further than that! The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his APOSTOLIC LETTER, PORTA FIDEI:
“Saint Luke recounts that, while he was at Philippi, Paul went on the Sabbath to proclaim the Gospel to some women; among them was Lydia and “the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). There is an important meaning contained within this expression. Saint Luke teaches that knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart, the authentic sacred space within the person, is opened by grace that allows the eyes to see below the surface and to understand that what has been proclaimed is the word of God.“ That means that we must have both an open mind and an open heart!
Now, let us turn to the Creed and specifically to the words:
“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.”
This is a short sentence but rich in meaning.
“I believe in Jesus Christ.” The name “Jesus” means “God saves”. He saves us from sin. Because sin is always an offence against God therefore only God himself can forgive it. This is what he does in Jesus, his eternal Son, made man. “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
The title “Christ” means “Anointed One”. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David. But Jesus is God's Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as "Christ." Jesus, in himself, fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet and king.
The title “Son of God” signifies the unique and eternal relationship of Jesus Christ to God his Father. Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father by his relationship to his only Son who, reciprocally, is Son only in relation to his Father. To be a Christian, one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
The title “Lord” indicates divine sovereignty. To say: “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord”, is to acknowledge that Jesus is our divine master. The feast of Christ the King, which falls on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, invites us in a special way, each year, to meditate on the meaning of the words: “Jesus Christ our Lord”.
St. John Eudes, a French missionary priest who died in 1680, wrote: “I ask you to consider that our Lord Jesus Christ is your true head, and that you are one of his members. He belongs to you as the head belongs to its members; all that is his is yours: his spirit, his heart, his body and soul, and all his faculties. You must make use of all these as of your own, to serve, praise, love, and glorify God. You belong to him, as members belong to their head. and so he longs for you to use all that is in you, as if it were his own, for the service and glory of the Father.”
Brothers and Sisters. As we draw nearer to Christmas, we naturally turn our thoughts to the Virgin Mary - our great model of faith. Her virginity is a special sign of her faith, which is “unadulterated by any doubt”, and is the sign of her undivided gift of herself to God's will. It is her faith that enables her to become the mother of the Saviour. St. Augustine said of her: “Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ, than because she conceives the flesh of Christ.”
Since, belief in Jesus Christ, is the way to arrive definitively at salvation; may we firmly believe, and so have hope and confidence. Let us rejoice in our faith each day! Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Fifty years ago Pope John XXII solemnly opened the Second Vatican Council in Rome. Thousands of Bishops from all over the world came together to talk about matters concerning the faith and the life of the Church and to renew various factors regarding the missionary work. Bishop Jóhannes Gunnarsson went from Iceland and participated actively in all the discussions in the four years of the Council.
Following the Vatican Council a great renewal took place in many fields within the Church, but it is safe to say that some people misunderstood the message of the Pope and the Bishops and tried to adapt the Church so much to the spirit of the world that little remained of the faith in some countries.
Now, fifty years later, the time has truly come to reevaluate the work of the Vatican Council and to examine the treasures which it contains, but at the same time to put forward the message of the Church in a still better and more effictive way in order to better reach the present generations. Therefore, Pope Benedict has solemnly proclaimed the Year of Faith which commenced on October 11th, 2012.
Everywhere in the world Christians are encouraged to reconsider the gift of faith, to renew their thanks to God for enabling them to be God’s children and to believe in Him, and in this way to give the world a credible testimony of a faith which is lively and attractive. The priests in Iceland will play their part in this, and among other things they will compose a series of homilies specially dedicated to faith and particularly to the main articles of faith, which we confess in our creed.
But before we discuss particular articles of faith we should briefly consider faith itself. Man is a person of faith. He believes many things, not only that which pertains to redemption and life everlasting, but also many things that matter in daily life. To believe means to know something or somebody on the basis of the trust we have in the person that delivers this knowledge to us.
Much knowledge we gather from our own experience and senses. We know that it is not good to play with fire, once we have touched the flames ourselves. This is a fact and we need no faith to understand that, but experience. But our own experience is very limited and brings us limited knowledge about things. However we gain much more widespread knowledge by trusting those who know better, or at least should know better. Culture, and the knowledge it brings, is built upon the trust we have in those who preceded us und brought us a new understanding.
Let us give one simple example: I have no personal experience of America. I have never been in America and I have never seen this continent. Never the less I believe that America exists, that there are people living there and that it is possible to communicate with those people. This belief is based on the trust I have in those who have been to America, who have seen America and returned from there to tell about their experience. I trust them and I believe what they are saying. Of course I am free not to believe and insist that there is no America and that they are either lying or are totally mistaken, or that this is all one big conspiracy with the intention to mislead me. I am free to believe that America does not exist but this is an absurd belief which does not fit to reason and a sane way of thinking and it will result in me disbelieving everybody around me and finally I will not even trust myself. In other words, it is simply rational to believe that America exists, whether I have ever seen this continent or not.
We believe in man. We believe in ourselves and in our neighbour. We believe in our children. But this is also based on faith. Who has got proof of himself and proof of other people? Nobody. Our faith is based on trust, not proof. A human being is an object of faith which we must associate with in faith and with respect. Parents construct self- confidence in the soul of their children by trusting them, believing in them and taking care of them. Faith is always an undeserved gift and it is the basis for all self-confidence, but without self-confidence a human being does not exist.
Above everything else the parents give their children, the gift of faith is the most precious gift. It is more precious than food or education, things or clothes. All of this we can receive in many ways, from the family or from society, if necessary, but faith is a gift borne of love, and it first and foremost comes from the parents.
If the entire human life is in itself faith, and the gift of faith is built on trust, then it is natural to ask more closely and consider where this gift comes from. If we talk about a gift we are really talking about a giver, about somebody who has it within himself to give trust, to build up the trust that is the fountain of life and faith. And this giver is God, the creator of heaven and earth. He is the basis of our existence and the existence of all there is. We have no proof of the existence of God in the same way we can proof some result of an experiment in a scientific laboratory, but we have prove of God, our Creator, in the same moment we perceive our existence as a gift, especially when we, ourselves, dare to present this gift to others and become a gift ourselves. At that moment we become aware of that the giver is not far away from us, but right beside us, constantly caring for us.
St. Paul says this in his famous speech in Athens: “It is He who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the Earth. He wanted people to seek God, even perhaps grope for Him and find Him, though indeed He is not far from any of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.”
In this Year of Faith it is fitting to begin by thanking for the gift of faith, but also to ask still more for this gift, as the father of the sick boy did when he begged Jesus: “I do believe, help my unbelief!” To believe in God and in Jesus is the same as trusting God and trusting his Son, Jesus Christ, and thereby the fear and insecurity vanishes which characterise souls that do not believe. Those words of Jesus are directed to us today: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Amen.
Sr. Jakob Rolland
St. Pedro Calungsod
Missionary, Catechist and Martyr
Beatified on 5 March 2000
Canonized on 21 October 2012
On Saturday, September 29, about 130 people gathered at Kristkirkja and Landakotsskóli for a diocesan meeting (“Samkoma”) of many of the movements and groups which are active in the Catholic Church in Iceland. This was the 6th time this sort of gathering has been held since 2007, but all of the previous gatherings were at Maríukirkja in Breiðholt; this was Landakot’s first time to host the event and it was a great success!
The Samkoma began at noon with a delicious pot-luck luncheon, and then the Reykjavík-area parishes (Kristkirkja, Jósefskirkja, and Maríukirkja) each had approximately one hour during which their parish organizations and movements gave short presentations about their history, purpose, and activities; in many cases, these presentations were augmented by songs, dances, or slide presentations. We were also blessed to have representatives from Péturskirkja in Akureyri and some youth from the Oratory in Stykkishólmur! Anna Björg Harðadóttir and Jesselou Jumapao served as emcees for the afternoon and they did a great job, keeping the presentations moving in a timely fashion! Babysitting was provided for the children; and everyone was invited to "have fun” with a sports break mid-afternoon! The day’s events concluded with the celebration of the Holy Mass in the Cathedral at 6pm. Attendees were given booklets which contained short descriptions and contact information for the various groups and movements that gave presentations. This information will also be available soon on the diocesan website, catholica.is .
Plans are already underway for the next Samkoma in 2013, and we hope that even more people and parishes will get involved! This year´s presentations were given in either Icelandic or English (with corresponding translations provided on a screen), but next year, we hope to more fully include our Polish and Spanish brethren. The Samkoma’s purpose was to familiarize parishioners with the many movements and activities available which can help strengthen Catholic life here in Iceland, but next year, rather than covering the same ground again, we hope to provide some more direct spiritual input, as well as opportunities for more conversation/discussion between members of the different parishes. If you have some ideas or are interested in helping to plan for Samkoma 2013, please contact your parish priest. “Many hands make light the work!”
May God richly bless all those who worked so hard to prepare for this year’s wonderful Samkoma, and we extend a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who participated on the 29th—it was a great joy to be together in the Lord! May the Lord use us to bring His light and love to all those around us!
The pilgrimage to Maríulind on Snæfellsnes
was held on
Wednesday 11 July 2012
"Hail Mary, full of grace, The Lord is with thee."
A group from Iceland was present
at World Youth Day 2011
in Madrid, Spain.
9. 2011Jesus, I trust in you!
A delegation from Switzerland visited the Bishop in the summer.
This summer the first pilgrimage of the Catholic Diocese of Reykjavik to Mariulind in Snaefellsnes took place. It was led by Bishop Peter Burcher. About 100 people went.
Mariulind or Mary's Spring was also known as Gvendarbrunnur which means the well of Gudmundur the Good. It flows under the lava of Hellnar. Nearby is Snæfellsnes Glacier which is the place where the ''Journey to the Center of the Earth'' began.
In 1230, according to oral tradition, Bishop Gudmundur the Good came to this spring. The Holy Mother appeared to him, accompanied by three angels. She asked him to bless the spring, which he did. This is one of very few appearances of the Virgin Mary in the Nordic countries.
During the very enjoyable bus ride people recited prayers and listened to readings from the Bible and prayed the Rosary together.
There was also lots of time to talk or enjoy some of
the beautiful scenery.
At Mary's Spring Holy Mass was concelebrated by the Bishop and several of the priests working in the Diocese.
INTERNATIONAL PRAYER MEETING
MIEDZYNARODOWE SPOTKANIE MODLITEWNE
DÓMKIRKJA KRISTS KONUNGS 2011
Serdecznie zapraszamy na modlitewne czuwanie w wigilie
Uroczystosci Niedzieli Miłosierdzia Bozego oraz beatyfikacji
Sługi Bozego Jana Pawła II. Odbedzie sie ono 30.04.2011 r., w
katedrze p.w. Chrystusa Króla w Reykjaviku od godz. 20.00-21.30.
W programie m.in. swiadectwa po spotkaniach z Papiezem, ludzi
z róznych stron swiata; wspólny spiew; adoracja NS; modlitwy
prowadzone w wielu jezykach; spotkanie przy kawie.
Dla osób uczestniczacych we Mszy Sw. o godz. 18.00, po Mszy
kawa oraz prezentacja filmu o Janie Pawle II pt.: “Credo”.
Welcome to the prayer vigil on the eve of Divine
Mercy Sunday and of the beatification of the Servant
of God John Paul II by Pope Benedict XVI. It will be held on
30.04.2011, at the Cathedral Christ the King in Reykjavík
The program includes testimonies of those who had met the
Pope; joint singing; adoration of Blessed Sacrament; prayers
in multiple languages; coffee meeting.
The Sunday Vigil Mass is at 18.00 on Saturday 30th April.
There will be coffee after the Mass in the parish hall along
with a showing of the film on Pope John Paul II “Credo”.
Modlitwa o beatyfikacje Jana Pawła II
Boze w Trójcy Przenajswietszej, dziekujemy
Ci za to, ze dałes Kosciołowi Papieza Jana Pawła
II, w którym zajasniała Twoja ojcowska dobroc,
chwała krzyza Chrystusa i piekno Ducha miłosci.
On, zawierzajac całkowicie Twojemu miłosierdziu
i matcz ynemu ws tawiennictwu Mar y i,
ukazał nam zywy obraz Jezusa Dobrego Pasterza, wskazujac
swietosc, która jest miara zycia chrzescijanskiego,
jako droge dla osiagniecia wiecznego zjednoczenia z Toba.
Udziel nam, za jego przyczyna, zgodnie z Twoja wola, tej łaski,
o która prosimy z nadzieja, ze Twój Sługa Papiez Jan Paweł II,
zostanie rychło właczony w poczet Twoich swietych. Amen.
Official Prayer for the Canonization of
Pope John Paul IIO Blessed Trinity, we thank you for having graced the
church with Pope John Paul II and for allowing the tenderness
of your fatherly care, the glory of the cross of Christ,
and the splendor of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him.
Trusting fully in your infinite mercy and in the maternal
intercession of Mary, he has given us a living image of
Jesus the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that holiness
is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life
and is the way of achieving eternal communion with you.
Grant us, by his intercession, and according to your will, the
graces we implore, hoping that he will soon be numbered
among your saints. Amen.
Jezu Ufam Tobie!
The Holy Father Benedict XVI receives in audience Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, president of the Republic of Iceland.
Pope John Paul's II Theology of the Body
A brief summary
By Anastasia Northrop
The Body Reveals God
As a person with a body and soul, made in the image and likeness of God, we find the meaning of life through finding out what it means to image God – not only with our soul, but with our body, with our whole person. We not only image God through our free- will and reason, but also through being in union and communion with others. “To be human means to be called to interpersonal communion.” Why? Because God himself is a communion of persons in the Holy Trinity. John Paul explains, “Man became the “image and likeness” of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning.” (TOB, Nov 14, 1979)
“Man Cannot Live Without Love”
A “communion of persons” occurs when two people freely give themselves to each other and accept one another in love. In fact, true love consists precisely in this mutual self- gift. As we see in the Gospels, the main point of the Christian life is to love. “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does notexperience love and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”
(Encyclical Redeemer of Man)
The Body Is Not Some Little ‘Add-on’ To Creation
What does the human body have to do with all of this? Today the body is so often
portrayed as an object for one’s pleasure or as a machine which doesn’t have much to do with our spiritual nature. The body is not some little “add-on” to creation. Rather it is a vital part of who we are as human persons. Why? Because the physical body reveals the spiritual reality of the person. For example, you can tell that someone is happy through the smile on his face. Happiness is not a physical, tangible, visible thing, so you need a physical sign to express it.
The Spousal Meaning of the Body
The sexual union of man and woman in marriage is meant to be a physical expression of their spiritual union, of the union of their whole persons. In the same way that a smile is empty if one is not really happy, sexual union is empty without spiritual communion. Not only does their physical communion point to an invisible communion, but it actually shows us that love, self-gift, is what we are called to and what we were created for. God created our bodies as male and female specifically to show us that we are called to love, that the reason for our existence is to love, to make a gift of ourselves to others. This is the ‘spousal meaning of the body’: “The human body includes right from the beginning… the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift – and by means of this gift – fulfills the meaning of his being and existence.” (ToB, Jan 16, 1980) This gift of self is meant to be lived in all of our relationships, but the most concrete and profound physical expression of the gift of self is the sexual union of a man and woman in marriage.
The Language of the Sexual Union
Marital union is meant to be a sign of God’s desire for complete union with us (which is intimate, though not sexual). It is a sign of Christ’s love for his people. It therefore
teaches us something about God. The married couple is called to be a witness to the
whole world of this love. In their sexual union their bodies speak the language of love
and total self-gift. We are called to speak the truth with our bodies: “This language of the body is something more than mere sexual reaction. As authentic language of the
persons, it is subject to the demands of truth, that is, to objective moral norms. Precisely on the level of this language, man and woman reciprocally express themselves in the most profound way possible to them.” (ToB, Aug 22, 1984) The only way to speak the truth with the body is to reserve sexual union to marriage. In marriage the couple’s physical union is the outward expression of the commitment of their entire lives to one another, the commitment that they made with their wedding vows.
That Our Hearts Become Truly Free!
The opposite of love is not hate but use, the use of another as an object, as a means to an end. Lust is using a person as an object for sexual gratification. In this way, our
hearts have become “battle places between love and lust” (ToB, 23. Juli 1980). Our
hearts are like a deep well: There is a lot of muddy water, but when we go all the way to the bottom, we will find a fresh and living spring. The heart is a lot deeper than lust! For Jesus, it isn’t enough to keep the commandments as if they were a heavy burden. He transforms us and our desires, so that it becomes quite natural for us to live according to His plan. Then, we are no longer under the law, as Paul writes to the Romans. Then, we are able to live with a spouse in love and truth.
Christ appeals to our hearts and calls us to freely choose to live our sexuality in accord with our dignity as persons made in the image and likeness of God! Only in living our true dignity as men and women created in the image of God will we be truly fulfilled, will we be happy in the deepest possible sense. This is the life that we were designed and created to live from the beginning.
Anastasia M. Northrop is the president of TOBIA,
the Theology of the Body
Cathedral of Christ the King, Landakot, Reykjavík
Sermon, Sunday August 22, 2010
Cardinal Miloslav Vlk
My dear Brother Peter,
I thank you for inviting me to take part in this feast of your diocese. I come here with joy to celebrate with you that ten years ago this Cathedral of Christ the King was given the title Basilica minor. With great joy I take part in your feast for many reasons...
For the first time I have come to a diocese so far in the north. But at this moment we are all here together with the entire Church of this world under the leadership of the Holy Father but also with the entire Church of Heaven with your Saints and your predecessors who are in Heaven. Around this altar we are one family of the children of God. I pray for your Bishop, for your whole diocese and for you all. First, I want you to take seriously my first words addressed to you, when I said: “The Lord be with you”. It is precisely in this fact, in the real presence of the living and resurrected Jesus, who is a real King, that we celebrate this feast.
Dear brother Bishop, dear priests, dear brothers and sisters,
To celebrate something means to really live what we are celebrating. In my introduction I pointed out to you the real presence of the Risen Jesus. He is not standing far away from us in his Kingdom in Heaven. He is also right here among us. He says to us: “I am with you always, to the end of this world.” This means that He is also with us today. Those words of his are real. For He said: “Heaven is in your midst...”
The Word of the Lord, which we heard today, is the living Word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah: “I come to gather nations of every language on my holy mountain, Jerusalem.” The holy mountain Jerusalem does not only mean a place, i.e. the Mount Sion in Jerusalem in Israel. The Gospels sometimes speak of the “New Jerusalem”, which is the Church. Through the course of history God has step by step gathered so many nations from all over the world into a new Jerusalem, the Church, which is in Africa, in America and the Far East, and reaches all the way to us here in the North. In your diocese there are people of many nationalities, speaking different languages, and therefore those words of God are also realized in your diocese.
In the text that I have referred to there is an important sentence: “my holy mountain Jerusalem”. In another place the Lord says: “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” Our God is a present God. The world of today is not a godless world. The majority of people do not reject the existence of God. But rather they are convinced that God is far away in his heaven in Paradise and that He is not present in this world. Regretfully even the faithful sometimes think that God is in his Kingdom far away and that we are waiting to meet him when we die. But this s a wrong opinion. In the Catechism we learn that God is infinite, omnipotent and always present. All that He created is in him, regardless of our consciousness and certainly also regardless of our will. Nothing can exist without him. This is precisely the truth that we can neither deny nor change. This is a matter of faith. But people in our secularized world don’t want to believe that this is so. They want to experience him with their senses, it can even be said that they want to touch God.
Our God is endless love. He loves us enormously. In addition to his presence everywhere He wanted to reach out to us in order to give us the possibility of getting closer to him, to touch him in some way. He became flesh, He entered our world as a man in a human body and was born of Mary. After his life, after death, He rose in his changed body (not material, although human), so that He could be with us in every place in this world and so that we could become convinced of his presence. He said that himself after his resurrection with the words: “I am with you as the Risen one all days until the end of the world.” Already in the Old Testament there is a very important sentence: “My sincere wish, says God, is to be among the children of men.” God wants to be among us.
The presence of the Risen One is not a presence totally independent of us. Jesus told his apostles one sentence which explains what we have to do in order to be able to have him among us in his Risen Body. He said: “Where two or three are gathered togther in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” God’s name is love. ‘In my name’ means that the love of the Holy Spirit enters into our hearts. To explain this fact I want to describe what happened with us in the communist time. As young people we could not meet or gather freely but only secretly in the mountains or in the woods. We also could not have priests with us to handle the Eucharist. That was forbidden. In this time we knew the reality of the Risen Christ who was present among us in his conquering love. This we learnt from the spirituality of the Focolare-movement. If one lives his life in this way, one detects His presence in joy and peace and His presence encouraged us for a change of mind. Sometimes it happened when somebody entered our community, that he said: There, something remarkable is happening.
This spirituality of the Risen Jesus has spread for over seventy years in the whole world and so many Christians have been touched by it. It is possible to touch Jesus, to become aware of of Him. The world, which thinks about a distant God, can perceive Him as being very close, exactly in this world. It can meet this present God. Pope Benedict XVI asks us to bring God into this world, where we detect the absence of the living God, the present God. In order to be able to do that, it is necessary to first know and detect the Risen Jesus, who is present among us, throuh our conquering love and to get personally acquainted with the presence of the Risen One. I think this is a great challenge for Christians in a diocese which is dedicated to the Risen Christ the King and his Kingdom... In the first reading of the Mass God says through the Prophet Isaiah: “I will gather nations of every language on my holy mountain, the Church, to be among them, Christ the King in your midst.” At the beginning of every Mass the priests reminds you of that: “The Lord be with you.” This means “the Risen One be with you.” And through this experience we can, like the Holy Father asks us to do, bring the living God, the present God into this world.
Therefore we pray in this spirit when we celebrate this feast of your Cathedral and of your Diocese. You have received me in love. I have come and talked to you in love. Thus you have listened to me and what unites us is the Spirit of love and Jesus comes in the Holy Spirit. Jesus always comes in this way, in this Mass he also comes in the Eucharist, in the Holy Sacrament, in the power of the Holy Spirit. We shall thank the eternal Father in the name of Jesus for his grace in all the many years of your Cathedral and Basilica. Amen.
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
FOR THE WORLD MISSION SUNDAY 2010
First Holy Communions
23 May 2010
THE PASTORAL LETTER
OF THE NORDIC BISHOPS
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE FAMILY
14-16 JUNE 2010
The family holds a special place in the mission of the Church. On the one hand the church has the task to support and protect the family and on the other she recognizes that the family is an important channel for passing on the faith and to build the community of the Church. The role of the family and its structure has undergone changes throughout the ages. But in essence the family is a union of a man and a woman as it is expressed in the marriage covenant. The unitive nature of the love between a man and a woman is an image of the triune God. Although man and woman are different God has given them the task of being one flesh and to be fruitful and multiply. (Gen. 1:28)
The couple obey this mandate when they, through their mutual love, procreate life and thus become partners in God‘s work of creation.
The view of marriage and the family has changed rapidly because of changes in lifestyle, an altered view of man, and the availability of contraceptives. Human sexuality is no longer seen or engaged in as an expression of mutual love and openness between husband and wife. Now, the purpose of sex as bringing forth life is also questioned if not altogether denied.
Pope Paul VI discussed this problem already forty years ago in his encyclical “Humanae vitae” published on 25 July 1968. The encyclical and its message was the source of much debate when it was first published. Ever since it has led to many interpretations of human sexuality, the Christian moral teachings and even magisterial authority.
The ideas that were discussed in the encyclical are still of topical interest; especially the value of human life, the protection of every person‘s dignity and, not least, the promotion of conjugal love. Strong criticism has been directed at the encyclical seen, as it is, through an individualistic viewpoint which has been formed in the name of liberty. But the so-called free vision of sexuality has neither made people happier nor strengthened marriage.
On the other hand, during this time, we have acquired a better knowledge of human sexuality which makes it possible to use methods of natural family planning that the encyclical recommends, which takes into consideration a woman‘s natural biological rhythm. In this way both the partners can take full responsibility for their mutual sex life.
The Nordic bishops, once again stand behind the message of the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” and its continued relevance. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his address to the International Congress on the 40th anniversary of “Humanae Vitae”: “The Magisterium of the Church cannot be exonerated from reflecting in an ever new and deeper way on the fundamental principles that concern marriage and procreation. What was true yesterday is true also today.”
The teachings of the Church as expressed in “Humanae Vitae” is, for many people, not easily accessible and seems difficult to implement in their life situation. But the innermost core and basic message is now, and always will be, the truth about responsible conjugal love. In order for young people and married couples to deepen their understanding of this, they need support and encouragement from dedicated priests. These have the task of both proclaiming the whole truth and unselfishly assisting people in the challenges of life.
During the past months the church, also in our diocese, has been deeply shaken by the disclosures of sexual abuse of minors by priests and other co-workers. The representatives of the church have committed terrible crimes against young, innocent people. These crimes are awful because they not only wound but, may perhaps, totally destroy all trust that they had for the priest and thus also the Church.
First, we would like to express our sympathy to those who have been abused in body and soul, and we ask for pardon in the name of the Church. We know that both lay people, priests and clergy suffer from these exposed wounds and suffer shame and are distraught. Many people, rightly wonder how the Church can continue to teach her sexual morality in the situation that has arisen. But this will always be the Church‘s position: to proclaim the truth even when she finds herself in a situation where sin has darkened those in her own ranks.
The encyclical, “Humanae vitae” defends the respect for human life and the value of every individual person.
Life begins at conception and from that moment to the very end of natural life it must be protected from killing, abuse, violence and humiliation. To remind us of this we once again recommend that we celebrate “respect for life day” in our Nordic dioceses.
Such a “respect for life day” is already celebrated in Sweden on the third Sunday of Advent. We wish now that this Sunday which is a preparation for the birth of Christ, will be a thanksgiving day for the gift of life in all our dioceses. Thanksgiving for the gift of life is also a challenge to defend and respect life and its dignity in all its phases, and in every way possible protect the weak and defenceless.
Pope Paul VI defended the dignity of life with his encyclical “Humanae Vitae” and Pope Benedict XVI has underlined the relevance of the message of the encyclical in our day. We, the Bishops of the Nordic countries join the Pope in his message and recommend to all the faithful to read it with open hearts and without prejudice.
May the Lord lead you all with His blessings,
Your Bishops in the Nordic Countries.
Pastoral Letter of the Bishops’ Conference of the Nordic Countries
Concerning the Catechumenate and Reception into the Church
“Where is the entrance?” If someone needs to ask this question, the architect has made a mistake. Entrances need to be recognizable and inviting, unless one wants to keep away uninvited guests. What, then, about the entrance to the house of the Church, the entering of persons into the community of the faithful? Can the entrance be easily recognized, or must one enquire about it from someone? For centuries this did not pose a problem: becoming Christian and entering into the community of the faithful, the Church, took place through Baptism.
Faith is personally encountering Jesus Christ and becoming his disciple. Continuous effort is required in order to think as He thinks, to be of the same opinion as He, to live as He lived. St. Cyprian of Carthage was once asked, “What would you do to convince a person of Christianity?” He responded, “I would let him live with me for one year.”
What currently happens to those adults interested in the Christian and Catholic faith who are received into communion with the Church and who wish to enter into this home, the Church? This question is often posed by the people of the Nordic countries. Due to changes of Church and society, no longer are all children baptized as infants, as in some instances, parents want to let the children decide about matters of faith by themselves; in other instances, the parents themselves have left the Church. In our Nordic countries there is, however, a growing number of converts; that is, people originally from other Christian communities and Churches, who wish to become part of the Catholic Church.
For these adults, who are in search of the Church’s entrance, the Second Vatican Council has revived the way which had existed from almost the beginning of the long history of the Church: the Catechumenate. This Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which came into effect in 1972, was meant especially for the “young Churches” of Africa and Latin America. Conversely in Europe, today often the only way to prepare for Baptism is by receiving private instruction from a priest. Fortunately, the catechesis for adults offers us in the Nordic countries an excellent opportunity to preach the Gospel to both those who are searching as well as to the parishes.
The Catechumenate is not a door to the Church, but rather a way, which should last for a sufficiently long time—according to experience, at least one year. Why is this? Being a Christian presupposes becoming a Christian; the decision to give oneself and one’s life to be governed by the Lord Jesus Christ requires development. It may be that people become interested in the Christian faith and, particularly, the Catholic Church after having experienced and participated in one of the great feasts of the liturgical year. The liturgy and communality have drawn them to the Church. Some have experienced God's closeness, which has lit a fire in the search and longing to proceed towards Him. These are good and important preconditions, although alone they are not enough for making the decision.
Additionally, one needs to settle one’s ideals, values, expectations and hopes for life. The relationship with God and Jesus Christ must grow and mature, deepen and be able to overcome challenges to the faith. To meet these ends, the Catechumenate offers different phases on the way to becoming a Christian, each of which is started solemnly with its own rite. The person feels a compelling force through the liturgy and catechesis, which results in a living and lasting growth into communion with the Church. Those who are baptized when being received into the Catechumenate are asked for example, “What do you ask of God's Church?” Answering this requires a process of reasoning and decision.
Later during the Catechumenate, the candidate is initiated into the Christian doctrine, he participates in the feasts of the liturgical year, and learns better and better to explain and understand the happenings of everyday life based on the Gospel. With this he naturally needs help, as one cannot be a Christian or become a Christian alone. Consequently, the way into the Church is always a way which is walked within a community. This community is found in the Catechumenate groups (they are the Church in miniature form). In addition to those who ask for Baptism or convert the groups also include some members of the parish, a priest and sponsors, who remain present with those being baptized.
Also, the liturgical feasts and the phases of the Catechumenate assist them on their way. For example, in one such celebration, those asking for Baptism are given the “Our Father” prayer, which they may pray with the parish henceforth. In this way, the baptismal candidate grows step by step, to take his place in the parish. The candidate learns that being Christian means also taking responsibility for the life of the parish, and giving one’s strengths and gifts to be used, in order that the parish be living and growing. The celebration of becoming Christian through Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist forms the summit of the Catechumenate. However, the Catechumenate is not only a good opportunity for the baptized or converted to follow the path which leads into the Church; it also offers a great opportunity to the parish itself. As the sponsors accompany the candidates who go before the parish, questions are raised also about their respective Baptisms and belonging to the Church; each candidate questions his own faith and voluntarily asks to be baptized and to be received into communion with the Church. It then becomes clear that the Church does not only have a mission; it is the mission itself and it cannot relinquish the duty of acting accordingly.
The Catechumenate makes one sensitive to the task of this mission, which has been given to all Christians: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) When people come to us and ask, “How may I enter?” it is not enough that we guide them to priests or others working in pastoral tasks. Parishioners are also needed, who prepare the newcomer a kind and friendly reception, and are willing to share with him their own faith. This sharing enables the parishioners to strengthen their faith and renew their Baptism.
The practice of the Catechumenate with its rites and celebrations helps in its part to revive the sacramental signs and rites. There are plenty of these symbols and rites, especially in our Catholic liturgy. However, habit and obviousness accompany the danger that the meaning and meaningfulness of these holy rites is obscured. Supporting a person desiring Baptism or converting on the way of Catechumenate may itself become a catechesis for the parish, during which also active Catholics can regain the richness of liturgy and can be nourished by it. Here in the Nordic countries we are already using the Catechumenate in some parishes. Let us imagine that even more parishes would begin to take advantage of the Catechumenate and a larger amount of those asking for Baptism might grow in this manner on the way towards communion with the Church. Through this, what could change in our parishes? New groups would be formed, the members of the parish would have the possibility to again find their faith, the newly-baptised who are inspired by the Holy Spirit would commit actively to the parish, for example as catechists, lectors, etc. The responsibility for others would grow, as the members of the parish would be concretely responsible for the soon-to-be-baptized person in need of support. The consciousness of the mission of the parish and the whole Church would grow, and the connection between life and faith would become clearer. The parishes would gain a attractive and radiant power and, as a consequence, draw more people to themselves. In this manner, beginning the Catechumenate would aid the renewal of the whole parish.
We bishops wish to encourage all the faithful, priests, parish councils, pastoral councils and the councils of the different religious orders to discuss within themselves and ponder this: can a Catechumenate be founded in more parishes, and if so, how could it be done? We would like to encourage—maybe one step at a time—that the different phases and rites would be realized for the adults who are preparing for Baptism and for the reception into full communion with the Church.
We wish you God's blessings for the approaching Season of Lent.
+ Anders Arborelius OCD
Bishop of Stockholm
+ Czeslaw Kozon
Bishop of Copenhagen
+ Bernt Eidsvig Can.Reg.
Bishop of Oslo
Administrator of Trondheim
+ Peter Bürcher
Bishop of Reykjavik
+ Teemu Sippo SCJ
Bishop of Helsinki
+ Berislav Grgic
Bishop-Prelate of Tromsø
+ Gerhard Schwenzer SS.CC.
Bishop Emeritus of Oslo
24 May 2009
First Holy Communions in Maríukirkja