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"Bishops have a duty towards both wise and foolish. They have to rouse the devotion of the carnal people with material ornament, since they are incapable of spiritual things."
— St. Bernard of Clairvaux (†1153)

Catholic Liturgy in Secular Sweden
published 7 November 2016 by Guest Author
A guest article by Alexander Kegel, organist at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic parish in Stockholm, Sweden.|

690 TENTS ECENTLY, THE POPE visited Sweden. The main reason for this trip was the joint commemoration of the reformation, together with the Lutheran World Federation—and a lot could certainly be said about that, but not right now. However, the trip also included a mass with Sweden’s small Catholic community, which is quite unique. Sweden has only one Catholic diocese: the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm.

Our Bishop, Most Rev’d Anders Arborelius, is the shepherd of about 150,000 Catholics (mostly immigrants from all over the world), spread across the country. From the northern village of Lanavaara—where a community of nuns have their convent—it is a distance of 1850km to the southern city of Malmö, where the Pope celebrated Mass. That is roughly the same distance as between Malmö and Rome in Italy.

In this tiny yet widespread diocese, the status of the liturgy and church music is quite good and very interesting. Since 2008, there is—for the first time ever—a music director for the diocese, and he is doing a tremendous job! New organist jobs have appeared in numerous parishes around the country, workshops and courses are being held for organists, and our choirs & diocesan liturgies are usually good.

A good example of all this was the recent Mass with the Pope. A semi-annual choir weekend was planned for October, and it was decided that the participants of the choir weekend would sing during the Papal Mass a few weeks later. The results were excellent! The music included Missa de Angelis, “Jubilemus, exultemus” by François Couperin, and “O Saviour of the world” by Sir John Goss. I had the honor of singing the (Gregorian) Responsorial Psalm during the Mass, and the altar servers were mostly from the cathedral in Stockholm. 1 The liturgy was as beautiful as it can be in an outdoor stadium with 15,000 participants, and I was informed afterward that the Pope truly appreciated the music.

The Diocese has its own hymnal, called CECILIA, and the new edition from 2013 includes even more Gregorian melodies than the old one. There is very little “praise and worship” music in the parishes in Sweden and although the musical standard varies considerably, the music chosen is usually of good quality. Out of fourteen Mass ordinaries in the hymnal, ten are Gregorian (four of them Swedish adaptations), and a recent study of the usage of Gregorian chant in parishes around the country showed good results. One thing lacking is the use of propers, and although the Latin propers are being used to a degree in some parishes, the main problem is that there is no music set to the propers in Swedish. But that is also changing! There are several ongoing projects with the aim to release Swedish propers.

I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into what can be done in a small diocese without big economic resources. With God’s help, we will continue the good work for the sacred liturgy and the Church.

We hope you enjoyed this guest article by Alexander Kegel.


1   The brilliant altar servers from my home parish in Gothenburg had already received the honor of serving during the Canonization Mass of Sweden’s recent saint, Elisabeth Hesselblad, in the Vatican