In the countries of Northern Europe, with the exception of Lithuania, Catholics form a very small minority. As a result, the Church often lacks the necessary income to continue fulfilling its functions. The faithful are also widely scattered across the region, which makes pastoral care difficult. The Church is urgently in need of help from abroad. In 2020, the focus of our aid to Northern Europe was primarily on Iceland, Norway and Estonia.
Mother Teresa’s religious sisters on a pilgrimage to Viðey Island, Iceland.In the Northern European countries such as Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden, most of the faithful come from abroad and are often spread over a large area across the region. Although these are predominantly rich countries, the diaspora situation means that the local churches find it difficult to fulfil their tasks on their own. For example, in Iceland: Only 13,500 Catholics live on the island, almost all of whom are immigrants and speak more than 100 different native languages. Of Iceland’s approximately 357,000 inhabitants, they form a minority of 3.8%.
Nevertheless, the number of believers is steadily increasing, mainly due to further immigration. Just 50 years ago, only about 1,000 Catholics lived on the island. In the reporting year, ACN supported religious sisters in particular in acquiring vehicles for pastoral care.
But pastoral work is arduous because the parishes cover huge areas. In addition, the climate and the long hours of darkness in winter are hard on the priests and religious sisters, most of whom come from abroad.
We specifically get involved where the Catholic Church lacks resources
Other recipients of our aid to Northern Europe include Norway and Estonia. In Norway, we helped to rebuild the parish centre in Harstad on the island of Hinnøya, which fell victim to a fire in 2015. This municipality is 250 km north of the Arctic Circle. In 2020, it was the northernmost project of our aid organisation. And in Estonia, we supported foreign priests who hope to work in this Baltic country to learn Estonian during the reporting year.