On 19 January, Pope Francis received an ecumenical delegation from Finland in private audience. The visit was part of the annual pilgrimage to Rome to the feast of Saint Henrik, the patron saint of Finland. The group with Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox and Methodist representatives was led by the Lutheran bishop of Espoo, Rt. Rev. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka.
In her address to the Holy Father, Bishop Hintikka emphasised: "Water links people in many ways. The Baltic Sea once connected the area now known as Finland to the Western world and the Catholic Church’s sphere of influence. The first influences of Eastern Christianity arrived in our region by land; Western influences arrived by sea through trade and other interaction. [...] In the water of baptism God gives us the gift of reconciliation, a new life in communion with Christ and his church. As you yourself have often reminded us, the water of baptism unites Christians across the divisions of churches and communities."
After receiving a "piece of the Baltic Sea" as symbolic gift, Pope Francis said in his address: "I am appreciative of the evocative image you employed: that of the Baltic Sea, a source of life threatened by human actions, a place of encounter painfully troubled by the climate of confrontation caused by the senseless brutality of war. War is always a defeat. (...) We need to nourish a genuine passion, a passion that springs from love for communion, from the desire to overcome the counter-witness given by the historical divisions among Christians that have so greatly harmed the unity of the Body of Christ. We need, today above all, an ardent zeal for evangelization. For in proclaiming the Gospel together, we come to appreciate that we are brothers and sisters, and we realize that we cannot worthily spread the name of Jesus, who was born, died and rose again for all, without bearing witness to the beauty of unity, the hallmark of Christ’s disciples."
At a meeting with Cardinal Koch, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, the participants of the delegation dicussed the current ecumenical situation in Finland and the common challenges in ethical issues.
The programme also included a Catholic mass in the "Finnish Chapel" of the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva and ecumenical vespers in the monastery church of Santa Brigida, presided by Cardinal Kurt Koch. All celebrations were accompanied musically by the magnificent ensemble "CandoMini".
Participants of the ecumenical delegation
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
Rt. Rev., Dr. Kaisamari Hintikka, Bishop of Espoo
Mr. Jukka Väinölä, spouse of Bishop Hintikka
Rev. Dr. Kimmo Kääriäinen, Executive Director of the Department for International Relations
Rev. Dr. Timo-Matti Haapiainen, Consultant, Diocese of Espoo
Rev. Dr. Elina Hellqvist, Advisor, Interfaith Relations, Office for Global Mission
Catholic Church in Finland
Father Marco Pasinato, Diocesan Administrator, Diocese of Helsinki
Mr. Marko Tervaportti, Communications Director, Diocese of Helsinki
Brother Gabriel Salmela OP
Orthodox Church of Finland
Bishop Sergei of Hamina
United Methodist Church in Finland
Rev. Mayvor Wärn-Rancken, General Secretary of Finnish Ecumenical Council
Photos 1-3 © Servizio Fotografico | Vatican Media