Source: The Media Project
October 4, 2017
Breathing new life into Christianity in Sweden, the Orthodox Church is also a key hub for immigrants to learn Swedish language and become integrated into Swedish society.
While the 1,000-year-old Lutheran Church in Sweden is losing members, the recent influx of immigrants and refugees into Sweden is causing growth in another branch of Christianity: The Eastern Orthodox church.
As the number of Orthodox Christians in Sweden is growing, congregations are building new churches. The churches are key integration points where immigrants use their developing Swedish language skills. And, already in the Lutheran country, one Swedish man has become an Orthodox priest.
“I am very optimistic regarding the growth of Orthodoxy in Scandinavia,” says the Metropolis Cleopas Strongylis, archbishop of the Orthodox Church in Scandinavia said. “Wherever I go, I have been embraced equally by locals and immigrants who are interested in strengthening dialogue and cooperation between us. Also, I have welcomed many non-Orthodox believers into our churches Metropolis, our monastery - the first Greek Orthodox throughout Scandinavia - and in my office.”
According to the Orthodox churches' own statistics, there were just over 160,000 members of the eastern churches in Sweden in 2012-2013. Counting all the people with eastern church background living in Sweden, but who are not registered members, the number is growing to an estimated 400,000 people heading into 2017.
A History of Orthodox Christians in Sweden
Sweden saw a similar boom in Orthodox Christianity half a century ago. Orthodox Churches have been on Swedish soil since parts of Finland and Russia were grafted into the Sweden under the treaty of Stolbovo in 1617.
In the late 1960s, roughly 10,000 Syrian Orthodox refugees from countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Iraq started to arrive. During the 1970s, Sweden become one of the European countries that received the largest number of Assyrian / Syrian immigrants and the Orthodox church in Sweden increased to 60,000 members.
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