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New Ordinations In Finland… This Country Shows Remarkable Catholic Growth

October 6, 2018 Featured Today No Comments


HELSINKI, Finland — August and September are bound to go down in history of Catholic Finland as two important months for the growth of the Catholic community in this Nordic country, with probably one of the fastest growing local churches, both in terms of conversions and of vocations.
On August 11, Tuomas Nyyssola was ordained as the ninth native priest since the Reformation in the ancient and imposing church of St. Lawrence in Lohja, about an hour’s drive east of Helsinki. Over 600 Catholic and non-Catholic attendees witnessed his Ordination.
The Ordination liturgy was graced by the presence, in the first pew, of a number of representatives of the Order of the Most Holy Savior of St. Bridget (O.SS.S), more commonly known as Brigittine nuns, with the difference that this time the group included two Brigittine monks, Brother Bernard and Brother Matthew, O.SS.S, who came all the way from their monastery in the U.S., the Priory of Our Lady of Consolation in Amity, Ore. The monastery has the canonical status of a priory sui juris and its congregation was founded by Brother Benedict Kirby on March 14, 1976.
It’s no exaggeration to say this was another historic event: For the first time since the Reformation, as far as is known, Scandinavia saw again the presence of Brigittine monks on its soil, after their ancient confreres were dispersed with the advent of Protestantism.
The monks explained that Fr. Nyyssola spent time in their monastery in order to fully discern his vocation, ultimately discovering he was called to the priesthood, and that therefore “he was one of us.”
They were pleasantly surprised by the level of devotion and sense of sacredness in Finland’s Catholic community. They witnessed the faithful receiving Communion on their knees, wearing veils, and praying the rosary. This impression was also reflected in the Ordination liturgy — it was marked by considerable reverence and splendid hymns, with the Gloria, Credo, and Sanctus sung in Latin.
The Diocese of Helsinki comprises the whole of Finland, with some 15,000 faithful out of a population of slightly over 5 million. The Most Rev. Teemu Sippo leads the diocese; he presided not only over the liturgy for the Ordination of Fr. Nyyssola, but presided at another Ordination on September 22, this time to the diaconate for another candidate to the priesthood, Eze Charles Nwokon.
Bishop Sippo has allowed the regular celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Latin. This can only lead to an increasingly reverent celebration of the Novus Ordo, as pointed out by Benedict XVI.
But the Catholic Church in Finland is growing not only in vocations, but also in conversions, including members of its intellectual and cultural elite, as shown by some of the latest instances. An example is a professor emeritus of dogma, Pauli Annala, a Lutheran pastor and theologian specializing in St. Francis of Assisi who became a Catholic with his wife, blogger Joona Korteniemi. She has one of Finland’s most popular Christian blogs (Hulluinhuonelainen.word
After all, Nyyssola is himself a convert and his trajectory shows that Providence does have a certain sense of humor. In a way, his vocation was a result of the prayers of his grandparents, his grandfather being a Lutheran preacher. The grandmother prayed for his son to become a pastor and her prayers was fulfilled after a generation, but with his grandson joining the Catholic Church!
However, Finland’s most prominent Catholic lay figure remains its current minister of foreign affairs, Timo Soini, a “thorn in the side” of the national government.
On September 21, he won a 100–60 vote in the Finnish Parliament against a motion of no confidence brought against him due to his pro-life and anti-abortion views. Those views, in the opinion of his adversaries, made him unfit for his office.
This vote was but the latest stage of a controversy which erupted on May 30, when the tabloid daily Iltalehti reported that Soini had participated in a pro-life rally in Ottawa, Canada, on May 11, while on an official trip to represent Finland at Arctic Council meetings there. This could be another event of historic significance: In his longtime reporting on pro-life issues, the author of this article has never heard or read about any European incumbent minister of foreign affairs taking part in a public pro-life event.
Criticism of his participation was initially voiced by Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto, who deemed it inappropriate for a minister to switch from being an official to a private citizen on trips to other countries. “In some situations a minister can perhaps be considered to be a private individual in their free time, but expressing opinions is another matter,” Niinisto was quoted as saying (cf. Talouselama, June 2). “It isn’t just a private person’s act if a minister takes a stand on a subject that is relevant and debated in the country they are visiting.”
Moreover, Soini had come under fire a few days earlier, when he criticized the pro-abortion referendum vote in Ireland.
Another criticism was voiced on August 12. The evening newscast on YLE reported on Minister Soini being rebuffed by Prime Minister Juha Sipila, who stated that Soini’s position on abortion was his own opinion, in no way reflecting that of the government, let alone the majority of Finnish people.
Soini at the time said he attended the rally as a private individual, rather than as foreign minister, noting that he had held the same convictions for the past 30 years, all the while as an active politician. Later he commented on “how odd it is that someone would have to defend the right to defend life.”
He added that human life is sacred from the womb to the grave and that he has always opposed the culture of death.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I hold this position. And I’m not ashamed of it, nor will I ever be.”
And if the promotion of dialogue, peace, and reconciliation is a Christian virtue, one can easily imagine how happy Soini was to have been in the front line of the arrangements made for the mid-July Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki.
Back to the Brigittine monks: The purpose of their visit to Finland was not only to attend the Ordination, but also to participate in the Mass Fr. Nyyssola celebrated ad orientem on August 14. He celebrated the Mass in the ancient Brigittine monastery in Naantali, located near Turku, the old capital of medieval Finland.
And here is another historic event: For the first time since the Reformation, Brigittine nuns and monks could pray together during a religious service in the same worship place, exactly as was the case in the earlier times, when the Brigittine monasteries were planned and built to house both female and male members of the Ordo Sanctissimi Salvatoris Sanctae Brigittae.

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