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Norway's first Catholic ordination at Protestant national shrine
17 April 2014 13:56 by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

The first Catholic priest since the Reformation has been ordained at the Protestant Church of Norway’s Nidaros Cathedral. Built over the burial site of St Olaf, Norway’s patron saint, who was King of Norway in the eleventh century, the cathedral was taken over by the Lutheran Church at the Reformation. It is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world.

Egil Mogstad, 67, was ordained by the Catholic Bishop of Oslo, Bernt Ivar Eisvig but many Lutherans attended the ceremony. Catholic-Lutheran relations are very close and the two denominations celebrate many Christian feasts together. “I have my Lutheran friends to thank that I was ordained in the cathedral. I would never have dared to make such a request myself,” Fr Mogstad, who is a keen ecumenist, said. “St Olaf is neither Catholic nor Protestant. He died as a Christian for all of us here in Norway”, he added.

Already at the early age of 19, when he was studying art in Paris, Mogstad’s interest in religion was roused by his contacts with a group of Dominicans. Soon afterwards he enrolled at the theological faculty of Oslo University and decided to become a Lutheran pastor. It was here that he met Bernt Ivar Eidsvig who was to ordain him 40 years later. Mogstad served as Lutheran pastor at Nidaros Cathedral for two years but did not become a Catholic until 1976. After four years as a novice in Paris and Strasbourg he returned to Trondheim to teach religion at the cathedral school there. Religious education comes under “Ethics and Approach to life” in Norway and does not require teachers to belong to any specific denomination. When he retired in 2012, he enrolled at the Institut Catholique in Paris and continued his theological studies there.

The number of Catholics in the Trondheim area has doubled with the arrival of Catholic immigrant guest workers from all over the world. As the present Catholic church is far too small and the building in poor repair, Fr Mogstad plans to build a new and larger church. The present one only has room for 200 people so five Masses have to be organised on Sundays for the more than 5,000 Catholics.