The head of the Nordic Bishops’ Conference has urged continued Western backing for Catholic parishes and dioceses across Scandinavia in the wake of a financial scandal in Norway's Oslo diocese, whose bishop faces charges in connection with falsifying church membership lists.
“The Church is developing quickly and dynamically here – so it needs material and spiritual support from other Catholics in Europe,” said the Conference’s Carmelite president, Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm. “While many immigrants have settled recently in our countries, they aren’t in a position to support their churches' upkeep financially. We're a poor Church in a rich set of countries.”
The Swedish bishop was speaking after debating responses to the Oslo diocese crisis during a conference plenary in the German city of Essen. He said Catholic parishes throughout Scandinavia had been “enriched year on year” by the arrival of young Catholics from Poland and Eastern Europe, as well as the Middle East and Asia. However, he added the local Church still lacked facilities and meeting places, and was dependent on help from abroad.
Meanwhile, a bishops’ conference spokesman told The Tablet the Oslo scandal was linked to the state funding of Norway’s Catholic Church, a system not reflected elsewhere. “The Norwegian state subsidises Churches per capita, so they have a natural interest in registering as many members as possible – whereas the Danish Church receives no state support and the Church in Sweden relies on a tax assignment system,” explained Nils Messerschmidt.
The Nordic Bishops’ Conference includes seven dioceses in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, including the world's geographically largest, Copenhagen, which includes Greenland and the Faro Islands.