By The Tablet
More than 40 per cent the population of the southern Swedish town are
from the Middle East and there are now large Christian communities
With the help of the Archdiocese of Cologne, a new church in
Södertalje, 30 km south of Stockholm, for 5000-6000 Chaldean Catholics,
who fled to Sweden from the conflict areas of the Middle East, was
consecrated on 8 December. Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne flew
to Södertalje for the consecration.
While the consecration was performed by the Catholic Bishop of
Stockholm, Cardinal Anders Aborelius, the service was ecumenical,
Cardinal Woelki told domradio.de. “The Chaldean Catholics, who are the
largest Christian refugee group in Sweden, invited Armenian and Syrian
Catholics but also Syrian Orthodox, Melkites and Maronites”, Woelki
said. “We celebrated in the Latin rite but as Arabic was the mother
tongue of most of the parish members, the liturgy was interwoven with
their own, familiar hymns from Syria, Mosul or Baghdad”.
In 2000, 13,000 Christian families had lived in Baghdad and Mosul, he
recalled. “Today there are only about 100 of them left,” he deplored.
Refugees from the Middle East had been coming to Södertälje since 2003
and continued to come. More than 40 per cent the population of this
southern Swedish town now came from the Middle East and there were now
large Christian communities, the cardinal said. Most of the Christian
refugees were convinced that, as Christians continued to be persecuted
in the Middle East, they would not be able to return.
The Church in Sweden was committed to integrating refugees and
offered language courses, advertised jobs and lent churches for
immigrants to hold services in their own rites and languages.
As there was no religious instruction in Swedish state schools,
priests and catechists gave religious instruction to young Catholics on
Saturday mornings. Up to 500 young Catholics were receiving instruction
in the Chaldean parish in Södertälje which now had a new church, Woelki
The archdiocese of Cologne contributed 500,000 euros (£440,000)
towards the new church in Södertälje and the Cologne archdiocese’s
master-builder, Martin Struck, provided the necessary architectural