Visit to Helsinki

I was off early on Monday morning to Heathrow airport for a flight with Finnair to Helsinki where I am visiting the Schola Sancti Gregorii Magni.

The Wikipedia article on the Roman Catholicism in Finland estimates the number of Catholics in Finland as about 7000 although local sources here indicate that it is probably nearer 10,000. Nevertheless, Finland is still the European country with the smallest proportion of Catholics. The majority of the population, about 84%, declare themselves to be Lutherans but the rate of practice is very low. Reading the page Churches and religions in Finland, I was astonished to find that it was only with the 1923 Freedom of Religion law that a Finn was officially allowed to be Catholic.

The whole of Finland is one diocese, centred on the Cathedral of St Henry in Helsinki. In recent years, the Society of the Sacred Heart from Poland have had a strong presence in Finland and the Bishop is Bishop Józef Wróbel SCJ. Here you can read his excellent sermon for Lent.

Yesterday evening I celebrated a low Mass at the Cathedral (pictured above); afterwards I gave a talk on the English Martyrs which generated much interest and some good questions. This evening, I am celebrating a Missa Cantata at the Cathedral and then joining the family of one of Marko Tervaportti for dinner. Fortunately, by doing some background reading beforehand, I was up to speed with some basic information about Finland and have been able to learn more during my brief visit. I do recommend a visit - although I will only be able to see a little of Helsinki, Finland is a beautiful country and most welcoming to visitors. Everybody seems to be able (and willing) to speak English although I am determined not to return home without a little of the language.

I have had time today to walk around central Helsinki and take some photos. I'll post a few more after I have had lunch.) As you may know, Lapland, in the northern part of Finland has many reindeer. I was very tempted by this offer of some sautéed:

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