September 2021 #1 – Afghanistan | Creationtide begins | Plague procession

News in brief.

Church responses to Afghanistan. Church leaders in Europe continued calls for action in response to the situation in Afghanistan. In his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis called on Christians to pray and fast for people caught in the crisis. Catholic bishops issued a joint statement calling on EU countries to “show humanity and act with determination in addressing the human tragedy currently unfolding in the country”. And the Anglican bishop in Europe said that the EU “should do all they can to support the people of Afghanistan who are imperilled at this time, and especially those who have made such huge sacrifices to promote freedom from oppression and violence, freedom of expression, education, justice and human rights, especially for women”. 

Creationtide begins. Churches across Europe marked the start of Creationtide (Creationtide is from 1 September to 4 October in the Church calendar) by calling for renewed commitment to safeguarding the global environment. Pope Francis invited everyone to pray for “an environmentally sustainable lifestyle”. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) held an online global prayer event. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I said in a statement that “The very life of the Church is applied environmentalism”. The Anglican Diocese in Europe will host a pan-diocesan Eco-centred event on 29 October in the run-up to COP-26.

Historic Tournai Procession recognised as intangible cultural heritage. The French-speaking community in Belgium has given formal recognition of cultural heritage status to the annual procession of relics from Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe Cathedral in Tournai (Doornik). This recognition comes with financial support for the continuation of the tradition, which has been taking place annually since the city was spared from the plague in 1092. The next procession takes place on 12 September.

Image of gothic design Oscar Fredrik's church in Gothenburg

Spotlight on Gothenburg.

The classical architecture of Gothenburg Cathedral (Kyrkogatan 28) today reflects significant rebuilding of the church following fires in 1721 and 1802. 

One of Sweden’s first neo-Gothic churches, the Haga Church (Haga Kyrkoplan, 411)  was built by public subscription in the 1850s. The church was designed by Adolf Wilhelm Edelsvärd, who had designed many of Sweden’s main railway stations, and is distinctive for its building materials, which are unusual for Swedish churches – English slate roof, hardened brick facade, and Scottish sandstone portals. 

Consecrated in 1893, Oscar Fredrik’s Church (Oscar Fredriks kyrkogata 1) was designed by architect Helgo Zettervall, who led the rebuilding of Lund, Linköping and Uppsala cathedrals. It is considered to be an exceptional good example of Swedish neo-Gothic design, with striking fairytale castle copper-roof towers. 

Masthugg Church (Storebackegatan 15). Overlooking the city, Masthugg Church was designed by Sigfrid Ericsson, who also designed the Gothenburg Art Museum. Its ship-like timber beam ceiling is one of several features that allude to Gothenburg’s maritime heritage. 

Vasa Church (Vasakyrkan) was built in 1909. A granite church in the northern European Jugendstil or Art Nouveau style of the early twentieth century, Vasa Church is most famous for its extraordinary, bright altar fresco by Swedish artist Albert Eldh, depicting the Ascension. The church also contains sculptural work by renowned sculptor Sigrid Blomberg, who made the baptismal font and the bronze candelabras with allegorical figures representing Faith, Hope and Love.

Saint of the week: Saint Gregory the Great

Medieval image of Saint Gregory the Great writing with a dove near him

John Calvin called Gregory the “last good pope”.  A prolific theological writer, and the first pope with truly continental plans for mission, Saint Gregory had a profound impact on the character and growth of Christianity in Europe. By 33, Gregory was Prefect of Rome, but when his father died he established a monastery on his family estate and became increasingly drawn into religious life. He was made a deacon and subsequently appointed the pope’s ambassador to the Byzantine court in Constantinople. Shortly after he returned to Rome and his monastery, Pope Pelagius II died of the plague and Gregory was elected as his replacement. He placed a strong emphasis on taking Christianity to the pagans of northern Europe, sending the prior of his monastery, Augustine of Canterbury to successfully establish Christianity in England. He is also remembered for seeing the church as an agent of social action, and using the church in large-scale programmes to distribute food aid to the many refugees and poor people in Rome. 

Looking ahead.

This evening, Friday 3 September between 19:00-20:00 CET there is a concert at the American Cathedral in Paris, featuring Mitchell Miller, the cathedral’s incoming Organ Scholar.

Picture credits. Photo of Gothenburg by Kristijan Arsov; graphic design by European Churches Chronicle.

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