Finns Pay Pope a Visit for Feast of St. Henrik

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 16, 2005 ( John Paul II received a Finnish ecumenical delegation in the Vatican that arrived in Rome to celebrate the feast of their country’s patron, St. Henrik.

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«With joy I recall the many visits of the Finnish ecumenical delegation to the Vatican,» the Pope told his guests Saturday. «Let us give thanks for the warm relations between the Catholic Church, the Finnish Orthodox Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.»

«Over the years our dialogue has been strengthened by mutual visits, shared prayers and, in a particular way, by the Joint Declaration on Justification,» he said. The declaration was signed by the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation in October 1999.

«All this is evidence of the significant progress we have made in the search for full unity among Christians,» added the Holy Father.

«As the people of Finland together celebrate 850 years of Christianity, I encourage you to build on the Christian roots of Europe, so vital for the future of this continent. Upon you and all the beloved people of Finland I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God,» he concluded.

St. Henrik, who died 1158, was the first bishop of Finland. Today, Lutherans comprise 85.7% of the nation’s 5.2 million inhabitants.

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