Missionary to Sweden; b. Oslo, Norway, 1538; d. Vilnius (Vilna), Lithuania, May 5, 1622. Educated in the Lutheran faith, Nielsen received a master of arts degree in Copenhagen and in 1558 began studies for the Lutheran ministry in Louvain. Through contact with the Jesuits there, his interest in Catholicism grew. On Feb. 2, 1564, he was admitted into the Society of Jesus, and he was ordained to the priesthood the next year. He remained in Louvain until he was chosen for the Swedish mission by the Jesuit general, Everard Mercurian, with the hope that Nielsen's knowledge of the language and his Lutheran background would hasten the conversion of King John III.
John, partly through the influence of his Catholic wife, the Polish Catherine Jagellon, and partly through consideration of the political advantages of a role as mediator in the religious struggles in Europe, had indicated his interest in reconciliation with Rome. Nielsen arrived in Stockholm (1576), where he taught theology at the new college founded by the king and defended the king's liturgical innovations, which caused general displeasure in Lutheran Sweden. In 1577 the Jesuit Antonio possevino arrived in Stockholm to negotiate the conversion, and in May of 1578 he absolved John from schism and administered Communion.
Nielsen left Sweden in 1580 and taught theology at the colleges in Olmütz (1582), Prague (1587), and Braunseberg (Braniewo). In 1606 he founded a college in Denmark. Among his published writings are Confessio christiana de via Domini (Cracow 1604) and De reformatione religionis christiana (Cracow 1616).
Bibliography: a. theiner, Schweden und seine Stellung zum heiligen Stuhl unter Johann III. Sigismund III. und Karl IX., 2 v. (Augsburg 1838–39). i. iparraguirre, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 1957–65) 7:959. c. sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, (Brussels-Paris 1890–1932) 5:1707–09. É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique. ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 11.1:497–499, with bibliog.
[e. d. mcshane]
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