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Bishop Anders Pastoral Letter for Respect for Life Sunday 201

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, At first I would like to thank all of you who contributed in different ways to the success of the Holy Father’s visit. He strengthened us in our Catholic faith and at the same time gave us inspiration to pray and work more consciously for the unity of all Christians. “The coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8). The time of Advent is a time of repentance and renewal when we may long more intensely for Jesus Christ. We await the Child which will be born to the world to save it. We empty our hearts from all that prevents us from receiving this Child and following it. We try to become like children ourselves in order to get closer to this Child. This also means that we want to assist and help all those children who suffer. Through the Advent collection by Caritas we want to help those refugee children who most need our help. We mourn all those children who perish on the “sea of death” fleeing together with their relatives. We pray for them, and for all those children who are threatened by not being allowed to be born in our wealthy country. We do what we can to help the children who have taken refugee with us. Christianity is the religion of the Child and of the children. It is a prophetical message in a world where money, careers and power run the risk of becoming more important than little and weak people. 

Christianity is the religion of life. Faith gives us hope, when the “culture of death” runs the risk of prevailing. Christ is the risen and living Lord who lives and works in his Church and in his entire world. “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). As the Disciples of Christ we may convey the happy message of the gospel and help realizing it at the very place where we live and act. It is important that we as Catholics – which the Holy Father reminded us of during his visit – work together with all other Christians to assist those in need. “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees” (Isaiah 35:3).

We as Christians must make our voice heard in the society in which we live, and spread the happy message of the gospel to all those who do not know Jesus. We must care for the weak and the forgotten and give a voice to those who do not have one. We have been given the task of proclaiming the inviolable dignity of human life from the very first feeble start in the womb of the mother to the very last panting breath. No person must be deprived of their right to live and be denied their right to live a decent life. Together with all people of good will we must stand up for the God-given value and dignity of all people. We worry about the tendencies of hostility towards foreigners that sometimes appear. The God who was born to us in Bethlehem had to escape to Egypt after a short time. In this way God has identified himself with all refugees. We can see Jesus in each and every one of them and show Him our love in them. In this way they can help us getting closer to God, the God who chose to be a vulnerable, suffering, persecuted person for our sake. But it is also he who has triumphed on the holy wood of the Cross and redeemed all mankind and freed it from the power of sin and evil.     

Christianity is the religion of new life. Love is infused into our hearts. The risen Lord shares his eternal life with us in the sacraments of the Church, where we may anticipate in advance some of the glory of eternal life, especially in the Eucharist where the heavenly wedding meal is glimpsed in holy signs. We are given strength by the bread of the angels in order to make life here on earth more like the reality of heaven. We can already now live from this universal brotherhood, where we shall all become one in Christ. We can care for the creation which the Creator has entrusted to us in so that it will preserve its beauty and integrity. We can be his cooperators here on earth, so that it can be a home where everyone can live in peace and justice. Everything and everyone who is alive must get our protection and our help.

During his visit, Pope Francis spoke about the revolution of tenderness and the road of gentleness. Through his life here on earth, Jesus showed us his tender love and wants us to make the most of it and proclaim it to everything and everyone. He wants to lead us on the road of gentleness and humility, so that we serve our brothers and sisters and lead them to him. In a world where one helps oneself and wants the prime seat, he teaches us put others in the centre and to serve them. On the cross, Jesus entrusted all of us to his mother. More than ever, we need the tender help and powerful protection of the Virgin Mary in order to understand how to live according to Jesus. There is a special aspect of the message of Jesus and of the way of following Him which we can only learn by being close to Mary. Without her something essential in our faith runs the risk of being obscured. Throughout all times she makes herself felt to help us repent more to Jesus. Next year it will be 100 years since the children in Fátima met the Virgin Mary. It is often small and poor children who listen to her more than the big and powerful. Mary inspires us to a deeper repentance and to putting ourselves in the hands of the Lord of life. 

Christianity is the religion of eternal life. Again and again we must be reminded that we are called to eternal life. Here on earth we are only on a pilgrimage to practice what we are going to do in eternity: worship and love God. We are reminded about God in every person created in the image of God. In this way we can anticipate a piece of eternity in advance. We can pray for our deceased and assist them on the journey through cleansing to the blessed gazing. Those Holy who have already reached their goal can, in their turn, help us to be more and more transformed by mercy. We live in a boundless reality, where everything that is alive glorifies the God who is creator of all things and wants to redeem everything. Praise and glory to Him for all eternity.

With my prayers and blessings to you all,  Stockholm, on the feast of Christ the King, 20th November 2016    +Anders Arborelius ocd

Herdabrev för Livets söndag 2016

Kära bröder och systrar i Kristus! Först vill jag tacka er alla som på olika sätt har bidragit till att den helige faderns besök blev så lyckat. Han har styrkt oss i vår katolska tro och samtidigt gett oss inspiration att be och arbeta mer medvetet för alla kristnas enhet. ”Herrens ankomst är nära” (Jak 5:8). Adventstiden är en omvändelsens och förnyelsens tid, då vi får längta mer intensivt efter Jesus Kristus. Vi väntar på det Barn som skall födas till världen för att frälsa den. Vi tömmer vårt hjärta på allt som hindrar oss från att ta emot detta Barn och efterfölja det. Vi försöker själva bli som barnen för att kunna komma detta Barn närmare. Det betyder också att vi vill ta oss an och hjälpa alla de barn som lider. Genom Caritas’ adventsinsamling vill vi hjälpa de flyktingbarn som bäst behöver vår hjälp. Vi sörjer över alla de barn som går under på ”dödens hav” tillsammans med sina anhöriga på flykt. Vi ber för dem och för alla de barn som är utsatta för hotet att inte få födas i vårt välmående land. Vi gör vad vi kan för att hjälpa de barn som flytt till oss. Kristendomen är Barnets och barnens religion. Det är ett profetiskt budskap i en värld, där pengar, karriär och makt riskerar att bli viktigare än små och svaga människor.  

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Pastoral Letter for Respect for Life Sunday 2015 - the Year of Mercy

Today, in the Diocese of Stockholm, is the inauguration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis. Here in our Cathedral. The Door of Mercy shall also be opened. This coincides with our celebration of Respect for Life which always occurs on the third Sunday of Advent.

Everything in our Christian faith is impressed by God's mercy. Everything in our Christian has the imprint of God’s mercy. When the Father sends His Son to us, it is to show us His infinite love which He bears each of us: and which makes Him to give His Son for our sake. It is the great task of the Church to proclaim this mercy and to try and convince all of us that we are called to receive this mercy and be transformed by it.

The first step is always to receive wholeheartedly the good news from this merciful God. "Enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing" as the Collect Prayer for today puts it. Advent offers us a golden opportunity to grow in prayerful longing to meet God who became Man for our sake. This way Jesus Christ can become more and more present in our souls and thus we can radiate more and more His mercy.

"The Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:5) says Paul as does the prophet Zephaniah: "...The Lord is in your midst." (Zephaniah 3:15). Through baptism we are a temple, where the triune God makes his abode. We must, therefore, learn to live according to this great dignity bestowed on us. We must allow the mercy of God to find expression in the way we act, talk and think. We must ask ourselves: ”What then must we do,” just like the people in today’s Gospel asked three time (Luke 3:10, 13, 14). How can we transmit God's mercy? This is a question for the conscience of each one of us. We must deal with this question daily during the Year of Mercy. It should be a great joy that we can and may proclaim God's mercy to those we meet. God has such great confidence in us, his beloved children, to allow us the privilege to communicate to others His innermost reality. "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). It is not a heavy burden to be merciful, rather a joy unlike any other when we fully realize what a grace it is to be Godlike in this way. We are privileged by God to be used to spread what is good, right and true. Thus our lives become more meaningful and have a clearer goal.

But what then must we do? How are we to show that we take mercy seriously? First, we must become aware whether we are excluding some individual or group from our expression of mercy. Is there anyone near us to whom we have shut the door of our hearts? Is there anyone we consider unpleasant or difficult? Often God waits for us there if we manage to overcome our antipathy and indifference. Is our comfort, our time or our money more important than our will to spread God's goodness around us? An honest examination of conscience is important.

Is there any group we shun? It is common, unfortunately, that we knowingly or unknowingly close our hearts to some category or group of people. In our society unborn children are often not seen, not wanted and not welcome. But like everyone else they have an inviolable value in the eyes of God regardless of whether they are wanted by society or not.

Even though Sweden has generously opened her borders for so many refugees, there are, unfortunately some who do not want them. As Christian, we must see through the eyes of faith that it is Providence and the logic of God that the year of Mercy coincides with this flood of refugees.

We do not have to look for people who are in need of our mercy. I am very grateful to all the parishes, who have listened to my appeal to do what they can to help the refugees God sends to us. We must never forget that our Church in Sweden has to a large extent been built by refugees who have come in batches to our country. From the time of the white buses with refugees direct from the concentration camps, new people have come and contributed to strengthen the Catholic presence in our country. We can only thank God for them. At the same time we must pray for peace, justice and reconciliation in the home countries of the refugees and actively work for this so that they do not need to leave on a long and often dangerous journey.

We must not close our eyes to the antagonisms that exist in our society between different groups. As believers it is important that we point out that religion should never lead to divisions and conflict. Sadly, there are those who blame many wars and injustice on religion.It is fifty years since Nostra Aetate, the declaration of Vatican II on non-Christian religions was promulgated. Where it says, "The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, (to engage in) dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love" (no 2) and ”We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God "  (No 5). The same message was conveyed in the call of the Interreligious Council of Sweden, published in Dagens Nyheter where I was also one of the signatories: "We invite everyone, regardless of religious and cultural affiliation, to stand up, now and in the future, for the equal dignity and value of all people."

Finally, I adjure all the faithful during Advent to receive the sacrament of mercy and reconciliation. Confession makes it possible for us to be transformed by the forgiveness of God and to experience His mercy in an exceptional way. "Again, I say Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). The good news becomes concrete in this sacrament, where we are transformed from sinners to holy ones so that we in our turn can sanctify the world and spread the mercy of God to everything and everyone.

With my prayers and blessings to all of you!

+Anders Arborelius ocd

Herdabrev för Livets söndag 2015 – Barmhärtighetens år

Idag börjar det Barmhärtighetens år, som påven Franciskus har utropat, och vi får öppna Barmhärtighetens port i vår Domkyrka. Detta sammanfaller med Livets söndag som vi alltid firar på denna tredje adventssöndag. Allt i vår kristna tro är präglat av Guds barmhärtighet. När Fader sänder sin Son till oss är det just för att visa oss den gränslösa kärlek, som han hyser till varje människa och som får honom att utge honom för vår skull. Det är Kyrkans stora uppgift att förkunna denna barmhärtighet och försöka övertyga oss alla om att vi är kallade att ta emot denna barmhärtighet och låta oss förvandlas av den. Det första steget är alltid att helhjärtat ta emot det glada budskapet om denne barmhärtige Gud. ”Håll vår bön och vår längtan brinnande, så att vi tar emot den glädje du bereder oss och ser hur Kristus tar gestalt i oss”, så ber vi i dagens kollektbön. Adventstiden är en gyllene tid för att växa in i denna bönens ständiga längtan efter att möta den Gud som blir människa för vår skull. Jesus Kristus kan så blir allt mer närvarande i vårt inre och då kan vi också utstråla mer och mer av hans barmhärtighet.

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Pastoral Letter for Lent 2015 - Repent and refuse to hate - the Kingdom of God is at hand!

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ!

"The time is fulfilled" (Mark 1:15). Lent is already here, and my pastoral letter will be read on the first Sunday of Lent. We have already been signed with ash on our foreheads and prepared our hearts for this time of prayer and reflection to follow Jesus on his way up to Jerusalem. During this holy period may we "grow in the understanding of the riches hidden in Christ" - as it says in the Collect prayer of today, and what this knowledge may signify for our lives today. Just like Jesus who withdrew into the desert for forty days, we must with the help of the Spirit prepare ourselves for Easter and the new life of the Resurrection. In order to be able to receive these glad tidings and be transformed by them, we must also taste some of the loneliness and simplicity of the desert. We must discover the special joy which is found in being able to sacrifice our time, our money and our pleasures so that we may put God and our neighbour in the centre. "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15), says Jesus. As Christians we must always be prepared to turn away from all that is sinful and selfish. During Lent we are invited to both renew our personal prayer relationship with Jesus Christ and to deepen our imitation of him who "came not to be served but to serve". (Matthew 20:28)

It is important for us to find a balance and harmony between our prayer life and our work, between the inner life and our daily chores.  Everywhere and always we can live in communion with God, who dwells in us through the grace of baptism. For many, life seems to be hopelessly fragmented in a million pieces that are difficult to unite. But if we live according to the dignity bestowed on us through baptism and see ourselves as a temple of the Lord, as St. Paul says (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16), then our lives will receive a unity that is deep and strong. We are liturgical beings through our baptism who live for the glory of God, both through our prayers and our work for the good of humanity... "The Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:14) says Jesus so as to remind us that, His and our Father, is always close to us and that we may always live in communion with Him. It is then that we become trustworthy witnesses of the joyful message of the Gospel. More people than we can imagine, have need of us in order to find their way to the glad tidings of the gospel and the new life which Jesus wants to give them through our mediation. We must reflect more seriously during Lent on how we can fulfil the commission given to us through our baptism and confirmation, namely that of passing on the faith in Jesus and to mediate His love.

Already to Noah and his sons, God said, "Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you." (Genesis 9:8)  God wants to establish a covenant of peace and love with all His people. He wants all His people to live in peace and reconciliation; that justice and love will permeate our world. We suffer, therefore, with all who are victims of violence, war, terror and persecution. We must, more than ever before, repudiate all this especially when it pops up in our own immediate surroundings. Once again synagogues are attacked, this time in neighbouring Denmark. Once again there is war in Europe, this time in the Ukraine. We must do all we can, through our prayers and our active engagement to counteract the powers of hate and evil. ””Refuse to hate!" is a slogan taken at the initiative of the Interreligious Council of Sweden. All the religions in our country stand behind this initiative, so as to obstruct in whatever way possible, all the hate expressed in word or action. We must all plainly and clearly, together, renounce all violence in the name of religion, and also all violence that is inflicted on believers no matter where they are. Unfortunately, more and more, we hear religion being blamed for the increase in violence and terror. It is, therefore, imperative that we believers in different religions, unanimously dissociate ourselves from all violence and consider it blasphemous to use violence in the name of religion. The merciful God's holy name may, under no circumstances, be so besmirched and desecrated by violent actions. During this holy Lent, let us beseech the Lord that the powers of violence are put to shame. Let us, in word and action, do all we can to counteract violence and terror. 

"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4). During Lent we must concentrate on spiritual food, which we need - God's holy word. In the Scriptures we find inspiration and guidance for how we should live as the faithful followers of Jesus and make his message concrete in our lives here and now. Try to find more time to visit a church and participate in the liturgy and give less time to shopping malls and shopping centres. Deepen your prayer life and tone down the entertainments. Give more of your money to the poor than to your own pleasure and enjoyment. Try to visit the sick and elderly rather than bars and discotheques. Nay, make a conscious, new choice every day during this holy Lent, because the kingdom of God is really at hand. Discover the real joy that it is to deny your own will and the intemperate needs of the self and instead do something beautiful for God and neighbour. We require this time in the Lenten desert so as to enable us to celebrate the joy of Easter and the Resurrection of Christ.

"For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, (1 Peter 3:18). We meditate, during Lent, the passion and death of Jesus and thus are transformed by this self-sacrificing love which is manifested in His Sacred Heart. It is my prayer that this Lent will be a time of renewal so that we can all act with more eagerness to spread the glad tidings of peace and justice, of reconciliation and unity, so that violence and hatred, oppression and terror will be put to shame. "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15). 

+Anders Arborelius ocd 

Stockholm, Ash Wednesday 2015

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