Sweden, The Catholic Church in
Sweden, The Catholic Church in
SWEDEN, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
A kingdom in northern Europe, Sweden encompasses the larger section of the Scandinavian Peninsula. It is bordered on the north by Norway, on the east by Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia, on the southeast and south by the Baltic Sea, and on the southwest by the Kattegat, which separates it from Denmark. A land of many lakes and rivers, Sweden's lowlands are mostly forested, with timber joining hydropower and mining as its export base. The country's skilled labor force allowed Sweden to compete in high-tech industries, and its literacy rate was among the highest in Europe in 2000.
Sweden is a parliamentary democracy with a hereditary king. Until the 17th century the three southernmost provinces of Skåne, Blekinge and Halland belonged to Denmark; Bohuslän and Jämtland in the west were held by norway. Noted for its neutral stance in both world wars of the 20th century, Sweden became a member of the European Union in 1995.
Christianity to 1500. Scandinavia was settled before 5000 b.c. as the glacial ice receded. There is evidence that during the Bronze Age (1500–500 b.c.) sun worship was practiced. From c. 500 the chief gods were Oden, Thor and Frey; sacrifices consisted of horses, but at times human sacrifice was practiced; the most important temple was at Uppsala. The first recorded Christian mission, to Birka near Stockholm in 830, was that of the Frankish monk ansgar, who was later archbishop of Bremen-Hamburg. This see subsequently claimed ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the country (directly or via Lund). Other missionaries came from England. St. sigfrid baptized King olaf i c. 1000. Christian influence possibly also entered Sweden from Russia, which was colonized partly by Swedes in the 9th century. The discovery of rural stone churches dating from c. 1100 provide evidence of a stabilized Christian mission; the majority of Sweden's parish churches dated from Catholic times even in 2000.
Early episcopal sees were established at Sigtuna (eventually moved to Uppsala) and Skara. Later sees included those of Linköping, Strängnäs, Västerås and Växiö. In 1164 Uppsala became an independent province. Important papal legations, under Nicholas Breakspear (1152) and William of Sabina (1248), introduced clerical celibacy.
Monastic life came to Sweden through the efforts of the cistercians. alvastra and Nydala were founded in 1143, soon to be followed by three other monasteries and six convents. Later the knights of malta, the carmel ites, the carthusians and the Hospitallers of St. Anthony entered the country.
The clergy was educated either at cathedral schools or abroad. Uppsala, Linköping and Skara maintained houses at the University of paris during the 14th century, but later the University of Prague and the German universities were favored. The cathedral school at Uppsala was successively enlarged until it was raised to the status of University of Uppsala in 1477.
Considerable Christian influence was exerted in Sweden's growing civilization, including that of the codification of its own laws, but the system of Roman law was never accepted, nor did Roman law enter Sweden through the medium of Canon Law. Church-State relations were on the whole harmonious. With few exceptions no serious attempts at undue influence arose from either direction. Recruitment of the higher clergy was not restricted exclusively to the nobility, as was common elsewhere. Schools, hospitals, old age homes, hostels and the support of the poor were practically all maintained by the Church, whose endowments were not excessive in relation to the work that needed to be done.
Among the earliest works of Swedish literature is the 13th-century biography of the German mystic christina of stommeln, written by the Swedish Dominican Peter of Dacia (d. 1288). The best-known literary figure, whose influence was widely felt, was St. bridget of sweden (1303–73). Her Revelations were widely read, and she gained fame for her attempts at influencing the popes to abandon Avignon and return to Rome (see avignon pa pacy). The brigittine sisters, which she founded, spread to many countries and had their motherhouse at Vadstena; their first abbess was catherine of sweden, the daughter of Bridget.
While several Swedish clerics gained positions of importance in the academic world abroad, none were of lasting renown save the brothers Johannes and Olaus magnus, Catholic archbishops of Uppsala in exile, who were famous for their history and geography of Scandinavia published in 1554–55.
Protestant Reformation. At the end of the Middle Ages Sweden was one of the most Catholic countries in Europe. The educational standard of the clergy was high; by 1480 more than 300 clerics had received academic training. Priories and monasteries continued to be founded, including houses of Carmelites and Carthusians, while churches were enlarged and decorated with frescoes. Though no overt signs of religious decline existed, there was political unrest, which contributed to the easy acceptance of Protestantism. The union of the Scandinavian countries (1389–1520) begun under Margaret, Queen of denmark (1375), and Norway (1387) was never firm in Sweden. It grew increasingly unpopular after the Union of Kalmar (1397) because of control by Denmark (which was often under German princes), combined with the influence of the Hanseatic League.
The continuous struggle to break loose finally succeeded in 1521 when Gustavus (Eriksson) Vasa led the peasants of Dalecarlia to victory over Christian II of Denmark and was elected king by the Diet of Strängnäs; he ruled until 1560. During his reign Lutheranism evolved as the favored faith. Most of the sees were vacated, and Archbishop Gustav Trolle of Uppsala, who had upheld Christian II, was exiled. Gustavus influenced the nomination of bishops and other clergy, especially as Rome showed little interest. At the Diet of Västerås (1527) King Gustavus Vasa obtained complete economic power over the Church and thereby gained great influence over its internal policy. The subservience of the nobility was obtained by returning to them estates that had been bequeathed to the Church by their relatives.
Although the diet did not favor Protestant reformers, it prepared the way for later development in that direction. Until 1539 no one was persecuted for reasons of faith, but major changes in ecclesiastical personnel, were
effected by the king for political reasons. The rupture with Rome widened after attempts were made to introduce the Germanesque, state-dominated Lutheran Church (1539–50). Education of the Catholic clergy became virtually impossible after Gustavus began supplying schools with Protestant-trained teachers. By 1536 practically all monasteries had been suppressed. Catholics reacted strongly, but their strength dissipated after a series of local rebellions were suppressed, their leaders killed, exiled or made submissive by clever grants of clemency.
While the reformation made inroads into Sweden, it was not until 1593 that the augsburg confession (1530) was officially accepted at the Assembly of Uppsala. This delay was due partly to the temporary reconciliation of King John III (1560–93) with Rome, brought about in 1578 by Laurentius nielsen and Antonio possevino. John's Catholic son, Sigismund III, King of Poland, succeeded to the Swedish throne in 1593, but hopes for a Catholic restoration were destroyed six years later when he was defeated at Stångebro by his uncle, Charles, Duke of Södermanland (crowned Charles IX, 1604; see reformation, protestant).
The slow and unsystematic development of Protestantism in Sweden accounts for the retention of such Catholic elements as vestments and the episcopacy in the Swedish Lutheran Church. Both the Wittenberg-trained Laurentius Petri, Archbishop of Uppsala (1531–73), who drew up a church ordinance that was accepted in 1572, and his elder brother Olaus petri, by his doctrinal tracts and disputes, were major figures in the formation of the Swedish Church. Codification of Church-State relations occurred in 1686, but no act of supremacy was ever passed. The Church's legal position remained unclear even into the 20th century, and this ambiguity continued to be one source of difficulty in its relation with the civil power.
During the 17th century strict Lutheran orthodoxy became the religion of the land. After King Gustavus II Adolphus entered the thirty years' war as the protector of the interests of the Danish King, Christian IV, Sweden symbolized Lutheran resistance to the oppression of the Catholic Emperor. Gustavus's daughter, Queen Christina, was converted to Catholicism after her abdication (1654), but this act had no religious significance within Sweden.
Lutheranism since 1700. The influences of the 18th-century enlightenment and 19th-century philosophical and theological liberalism served to weaken the established Swedish Church and caused, by way of reaction, an upsurge of pietism and evangelicalism. When these two movements met strong clerical opposition and restrictive legislation, some groups seceded from the State Church and formed a number of sects. One result was agitation for religious freedom, which proved beneficial to Catholics. The sects and nonconformist groups, notably the pentecostal churches, remained a significant influence in Swedish life, despite declining memberships after World War I.
Until Jan. 1, 2000 persons born in Sweden were automatically considered members of the State-supported
Lutheran Church, unless official notification to the contrary was given. Such notification involved a procedure that did little to deter Catholics and other minority faiths. During the 20th century considerable tensions developed both within the Lutheran Church itself and between the Church and the State. Conservatives and liberals battled over a politically motivated decision in 1957 to permit the ordination of women. By 1995 the Swedish Parliament voted to end its affiliation with the Lutheran Church, once again leaving the appointment of bishops to Church leaders and ending all financial subsidies. Despite this break with the government, in 2000 almost 90 percent of all Swedes remained affiliated with the Lutheran faith. New Testament scholarship at the University of Uppsala continued to merit international renown into the 21st century, supplying a counterbalance to theological liberalism within Protestant sects. The University's work was inspired in the mid-1900s by a High Church movement and a regeneration of Lutheran orthodoxy. Among modern Lutheran churchmen of international renown have been Archbishop Nathan sÖderblom, the exegete Bishop Anders Nygren, and ecclesiastical historian Archbishop Yngve Brilioth.
Catholic Church since the Reformation. The Swedish Church suffered by being cut off from the rest of the Catholic world after the Reformation, one of the effects of which was a cultural decline in Sweden. Although the jesuits established colleges along the southern shores of the Baltic that were attended for a time by upper-class Swedish youths, the government strongly discouraged this practice. Legislation became increasingly restrictive until the presence of Catholicism was completely forbidden (1617). Two Catholics were executed for their faith in 1624. Chaplains at foreign embassies were the only priests to be found from 1617 until 1781, when King Gustavus III issued a decree of tolerance for foreign Catholics after a visit with Pope Pius VI. In 1783 the Vicariate Apostolic of Sweden (which included Norway until 1868) was constructed; it became the Diocese of Stockholm in 1953.
Of primary importance for Catholic revival were the marriage in 1823 between Oscar I (King 1844–59) and the Catholic Josephine Beauharnais, and the work of her chaplain, Jacob Studach, Vicar Apostolic (1833–73). St. Eugenia's church in Stockholm, built in 1837, was the first modern church allowed to be constructed on the Scandinavian Peninsula. In 1873 Swedes gained the legal right to leave the Lutheran Church and join another Christian community by a decree of tolerance enacted principally under nonconformist pressure. Indicative of the slow progress of Catholicism despite such freedom was the fact that in 1923 Sweden had only 11 priests and five parishes. After World War II traditional prejudices against the Church began decreasing, and the number of converts rose to about 100 a year. An influx of refugees and foreign workers during the 1970s and 1980s also augmented Catholic ranks, necessitating the establishment of new parishes in the provinces. The Church worked to reach Sweden's widespread population through both radio and television programming and printed publications, including the diocesan biweekly Katolsk Kyrkotidning, the bi-monthly Credo, and several publications for children. Major Catholic associations included Academicum Catholicum (affiliated with Pax Romana) and the youth-group Sveriges Unga Katolikers.
Looking to the Future. After 1952 the country enjoyed almost complete religious freedom despite the existence of a state-sanctioned faith; this too would end in 2000. In 1953 the Church hierarchy was restored, its one diocese reestablished in Stockholm. Despite a continuing interest in Catholicism among Swedes, progress in conversions was impeded by limited resources, lack of native clergy—Swedish seminarians continued to study abroad, as Scandinavia lacked a regional seminary—and the sheer size of the country. As occurred elsewhere in Europe during the late 20th century, an increasingly widespread lack of interest in religion also worked to erode the work of the Church ministry. Nonetheless, the country's Catholic population continued to grow. While statistics from 1964 reported 21 parishes and 45 religious and 20 secular priests in Sweden, by 2000 those same figures had increased to 38 parishes and 131 total priests.
In November of 1998 Pope John Paul II named Anders Arborelius as the first Swedish-born bishop since the Reformation to the position of the leader of the country's church. Although born in Switzerland, Bishop Arborelius was of Swedish parentage and was raised in the Swedish city of Lund. The pope's action reflected an increasing stability in the Swedish Church, a stability that would be increased during the early 21st century as the liberal Swedish government passed reform legislation intended to restore basic rights such as land ownership and legal protections to all the nation's churches.
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