Church of Sweden

Bishops' missive on religious ceremonies in encounters with other faiths

Press Release   •   May 03, 2012 09:42 BST

In a new bishops’ missive, the bishops of the Church of Sweden describe ways for the church’s representatives to be open as they encounter people in a multireligious setting while remaining rooted in their own identity. The bishops’ missive “Religious ceremonies in a multireligious context” is now being distributed to all Church of Sweden parishes and priests.

The bishops’ missive replaces the 20 year-old missive “Religious ceremonies in encounters with immigrants” (1992). The new missive focuses on the faith communities that have arrived in Swedenwith the immigration of recent decades. Marriages across religious boundaries have become more common, the parents of christened children may belong to different traditions etc., and this means ever more encounters with people whose roots lie in other faiths and cultural patterns.

The Bishops state that the rite is strong and holds great importance, but that people have differing interpretations of what is taking place in the rite. When someone involved in a religious ceremony comes from a different religious tradition, new questions arise. According to the bishops, this requires thoughtful pastoral treatment by the church.

“In the case of religious ceremonies in a multireligious context, we who represent the Church of Sweden must testify to our faith, act in accordance with our church’s creed, demonstrate openness and caring towards people who come from other faiths and be able to cross boundaries without becoming people who have no boundaries themselves” (from the conclusion).

In addition to separate chapters devoted to each religious ritual, the Bishops’ missive also contains two chapters entitled “Changes in the religious landscape” and “Overarching theological and pastoral reasoning” – which include criteria for guidance in proper pastoral action – as well as recommendations for further reading.

The complete bishops’ missive can be found as a pdf file at 12,000 copies are also being printed and sent to all of the Church of Sweden’s parishes and priests. The missive is also being sent to ecumenical and interfaith contacts.

The purpose of a bishops' missive is to convey what the bishops, as leaders of the Church of Sweden, wish to jointly express to the Church's employees and members, and to society in general. It can relate to questions that concern the Church's operations, and matters of society at large.