Sunday, June 9, 2019

In my hometown

“Ortodoxa och österländska kyrkor i Sverige” by Thomas Arentzen is a book about Orthodox believers in Sweden. It was published in 2016. It´s interesting to note that the work wasn´t published by any Orthodox Church, but by a Swedish government agency, the so-called Committee for Government Grants to Religious Denominations! Thus, we are really dealing with an official attempt to map the Orthodox Churches. The book is probably intended as a guide for bureaucrats handling faith-related issues. That being said, it may be somewhat useful for the general reader, too. The author is an Eastern Orthodox Church historian.

The book covers the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox (“Monophysite”) and “Nestorian” jurisdictions currently found in Sweden. Eastern Catholics are mentioned more in passing. There are currently about 400,000 Orthodox believers in Sweden, according to the author´s rough estimations. The figure seems to include people who are only “culturally” Orthodox, however. The number of officially declared members of such Churches is only about 163,000. Most Orthodox believers are immigrants. The largest Orthodox church body in Sweden is the local jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church. This surprised me – I always assumed it was the Syriac Orthodox Church. It seems this Church is currently split. If all the Syriac Churches are counted together, they indeed have more members than the Serbian Church in this god-forsaken country. Swedish Orthodox believers are in very short supply. “Svenska Ortodoxa Prosteriet” has only about 2,000 members and are administratively a branch of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Finnish Orthodox congregation in Sweden (with church services mostly in Swedish) has about 1,500 members and belongs to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople rather than that of the Orthodox Church in Finland (!). I have to admit that the various bureaucratic struggles so often beloved by the Orthodox make my head spin…

Most of the information in this book deals with Church history, membership figures, and the already mentioned jurisdictional wrangling. The author briefly describes the liturgy of the various groups covered. He also, just as briefly, mentions traditional church holidays, many of an obviously “folkish” (pre-Christian?) character. The notorious revelations of Syriac Orthodox girl Samira Hannoch are mentioned only in passing, perhaps to respect her privacy. After all, this is a book published by a government agency. The author mentions a Syriac Marian apparition in Tensta, an immigrant neighborhood in Stockholm, but also mostly in passing. I admit I had no idea the Virgin Mary appeared in my hometown! Nor did I know that there was an Eastern Orthodox starets living in the forests of Dalarna... 

Thomas Arentzen´s book is somewhat dry, but if you understand Swedish and are interested in Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy (or Nestorians), I suppose it could be of some interest.


  1. Chalcedoniter, monofysiter och diafysiter... Vilka jävla namn. Jag måste dock säga att den monofysitiska ståndpunkten rörande Jesu Kristi natur är mer logisk än den chalcedonitiska. Å andra sidan skulle man ju kunna hävda att den nestorianska ståndpunkten också är mer logisk. Ändå har vi fått Kalkedon på halsen och kommer ha det typ 2000 år till eller vad?

  2. Fast ortodoxa kyrkan tolkar väl Chalcedons kristologi annorlunda än katolikerna, detta för att Justinianus drev igenom att Chalcedon måste tolkas i ljuset av Kyrillos av Alexandria?

  3. Next week on this blog: more Anthroposophy-bashing! Zorry, just can´t help myself.

  4. Speaking of bureaucratic wrangling, the Russian Orthodox Church (membership 163 million) has broken with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople...

  5. "The author mentions a Syriac Marian apparition in Tensta, an immigrant neighborhood in Stockholm, but also mostly in passing."

    Den asatroende blogg jag nämnde, som tyckte att alla invandrare måste konvertera till asatron, nämnde också denna uppenbarelse. Och menade att det absolut inte kunde ha varit Maria som uppenbarade sig. Eftersom det hände i Sverige måste det ha varit Freja eller någon annan fornnordisk gudinna, som de kristna invandrarna sedan felaktigt tolkade som Maria.

  6. Eftersom det var ett moln som påstods se ut som Maria, så är ju hedniska naturgudar en mer logisk kandidat... ;-)