PARISHES THE SIZE OF BAVARIA
The Catholic Church in Finland is a financially poor church that receives very little state support. Maintaining church life is a great challenge for its members, many of whom are immigrants. They receive financial support from Germany from the Bonifatiuswerk and the Diaspora Commission of German Bishops. In order to obtain a clear picture of what it means to live one’s own faith in a small parish under difficult conditions in a strongly secularised country, delegates of the Bonifatiuswerk from all over Germany travelled to the Scandinavian country.
"In Finland, we got to know a small Church in a vast country where parishes are of a similar size to the entire federal state of Bavaria. These parishes covering an enormous area also pose many challenges," said Secretary General Monsignore Georg Austen. For example, it is not unusual for the 32 priests to travel hundreds of kilometres at the weekend to celebrate Mass, bring children into contact with the faith and provide pastoral care for the people. The same applies to the faithful if they want to celebrate the Eucharist and experience communion in faith.
There are 14,949 registered Catholics living in the Diocese of Helsinki, which covers the entire territory of Finland. They represent 0.27% of the total population and are spread over eight parishes, which are characterised by a great diversity of nations with different cultural influences. Through immigration from abroad, a surplus of births and conversions, the Diocese of Helsinki is growing by 500 Catholics a year (4%). In the last five years, the Bonifatiuswerk supported projects in Finland with 610,000 euros and the Diaspora Commission with 2.3 million euros.
The members of the delegation were impressed by the joy and enthusiasm for faith of this young and multinational Church. "Despite the cultural diversity with different linguistic and religious influences, a community of faith similar to the early Christian community has developed in Finland, in which the members are closely connected with each other, live their faith from a deep conviction and carry it into society," said Alfons Hardt, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Paderborn.