Norway’s churches at center of country’s efforts to heal after attacks

August 1, 2011

TRONDHEIM

A Norwegian bishop addressing the recent bombing and shooting attacks in his country said Norway has “countered this insane terrorism by demonstrating love and solidarity.”

“We have brought out a social capital we maybe even did not know was there. We must rebuild our trust in human beings as fellow human beings,” said Church of Norway Bishop Tor Singsaas of Nidaros at the opening of the annual St. Olav Festival in Trondheim on July 28.

In the days since the attacks, Norwegian priests and church workers have joined in caring for the survivors and the victims’ families, with churches opened for people seeking comfort and community. Oslo’s Lutheran Cathedral, situated a few blocks from the damaged government buildings, has become a center for mourners to light candles. Outside the cathedral, flowers cover large areas and also the street.

As Norwegian police finish the complex task of indentifying victims, burials will begin to take place all over the country, most of them in Church of Norway churches and chapels.

On July 24 Oslo Cathedral changed its regular Sunday service into a televised “mass of grief and hope.”

“We will not let fear paralyze us,” said Church of Norway Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien in her homily.

Preaching to a packed cathedral, and with Norway’s royal family and political leaders present, Byfuglien said that “in the midst of the gruesome, something beautiful is emerging: the God-given ability of every human being to show goodness and charity. This makes us see glimpses of God.”

Acts and messages of ecclesial condolences and support have been numerous since the attacks on July 22. Pope Benedict XVI expressed his compassion in a message to Norway’s King Harald V.

On July 27 Denmark’s Queen and Prime Minister participated in a memorial service in Copenhagen’s Lutheran Cathedral.  Lutheran Bishop Emeritus of Oslo Gunnar Staalsett told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation that Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist leaders have sent their messages of support via the World Council of Religious Leaders.

After officially opening the St. Olav Festival in Trondheim on July 28, Norway’s minister of foreign affairs, Jonas Gahr Stoere, presented Nidaros Cathedral with an icon created by monks in an Orthodox monastery in Dekani, Kosovo. Depicting St. Olav of Norway and St. Stephen of Dekani, the icon was presented to Stoere during his visit to Kosovo this Easter.

In his speech Stoere said the old ecclesial center of Nidaros underlines Norway’s broad European Christian heritage.

St. Olav Festival takes place in and around Trondheim’s medieval Nidaros Cathedral, grave church of Norway’s patron saint Olav II Haraldsson (995-1030). The festival has in recent decades grown into a forceful reminder of Christianity’s long lineage in Norway and other Nordic countries ― which many people feel has been gravely exploited by last week’s terrorist attacks.

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