On 17 January, Pope Francis received an ecumenical delegation from Finland in a private audience. The visit was part of the annual pilgrimage to Rome for the feast of Saint Henrik, the patron saint of Finland. The group was led by the Lutheran Bishop of Oulu, Jukka Keskitalo, and Most Reverend Teemu Sippo, SCJ, Bishop Emeritus of Helsinki. This year, two representatives of the Sami, the only indigenous people living in the European Union, also took part.
In his address to the Holy Father, Bishop Keskitalo, in whose diocese the Sami homeland of Finland is located, emphasised: “I think it is very important that a process of truth and reconciliation for the Sami has begun in our country; it is genuinely aimed at hearing indigenous narratives and seeks truth and reconciliation on the painful issues of the past”. Referring to the Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia, he expressed his hope “that our common dream, the dream that the Church will receive more and more indigenous faces, the Amazonians and the Sami, is coming true”.
Pope Francis received with great joy a copy of the Holy Scripture translated into the Northern Sami language and wished the Sami representatives God’s blessing “on the journey towards reconciliation and healing of memory”. In his address Pope Francis referred to the motto of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship Him (Mt 2:2): “Dear friends, we have set out on a journey led by God’s kindly light that dissipates the darkness of division and directs our journey towards unity”. At the same time, he emphasised the necessity of pausing from time to time on the journey in order to draw new strength and to reassure oneself of the goal. Thus, he called to mind the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea in 2025 and the 500th commemoration of the Confessio Augustana in 2030 as inspiring moments of the common ecumenical pilgrimage. “In this ecumenical pilgrimage, let us help one another to advance, in the words of the Rule of St Benedict (LXII, 4), ‘ever closer to God’.”
At a meeting with Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the participants of the Finnish delegation discussed the current ecumenical situation in Finland and the common challenges in ethical issues.
The programme of the pilgrimage also included ecumenical vespers in the monastery church of Santa Brigida, presided by Cardinal Koch, and a Lutheran mass in the Cappella Capranica of the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, where Bishop Emeritus Teemu Sippo delivered the homily. The Cappella Capranica also houses a modern sculpture of Saint Henrik created by the Finnish sculptor Sakari Pykälä. All celebrations were accompanied musically by the excellent Finnish choir “Voces”.
Photos © Servizio Fotografico | Vatican Media