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Church

On an Upward Trajectory: The Metropolis of Sweden and All Scandinavia

BOSTON – The Metropolis of Sweden has been on an upward trajectory lately, as is clear from the first interview given by Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and All Scandinavia to The National Herald. He has previously served in various positions in the Archdiocese in America. The interview follows:

The National Herald: Your Eminence, could you briefly speak to us about the history of the Metropolis of Sweden?

Metropolitan Cleopas: Thank you for the opportunity to again communicate with you and your readers. Initially, allow me to point out that the Holy Metropolis of Sweden is spiritually and administratively under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It has been on its own since August 12, 1969, after previously being under the Holy Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain.

The first Metropolitan of Sweden was the late Polyektos, who shepherded the Holy Metropolis from its establishment until the year 1974 when he was succeeded by Metropolitan Paul for forty years, until May 5, 2014, when I was elected to the episcopal rank.

The Great ‘Agiasmos’ Blessing of the Waters Service of Theophany at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Stockholm. (Photo: provided by the Metropolis of Sweden)

TNH: How many and which countries comprise the Metropolis?

Metropolitan Cleopas: It includes five countries in its spiritual jurisdiction: Sweden, where its headquarters are located, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Greenland. We have nine parish communities in Sweden and one Monastery, four parishes in Norway, and one each in Denmark and Iceland.

TNH: How are the communities organized?

Metropolitan Cleopas: In collaboration with the competent services of the Swedish State, there has been an administrative restructuring of the parishes, which are under the jurisdiction of the Metropolis and are governed by the Parish Priest and the prescribed Church Council.

TNH: How many members do the faithful amount to overall?

The March 25 celebration at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Stockholm. (Photo: provided by the Metropolis of Sweden)

Metropolitan Cleopas: Today, in Sweden, the number of Greeks amounts to around forty thousand, while in Norway, it’s approximately five thousand, in Denmark about five thousand, and in Iceland one hundred.

TNH: How many clergy serve in the Metropolis?

Metropolitan Cleopas: Since I assumed the archpastorship of the Metropolis in 2014, I found one clergyman, and today a total of twelve serve.

TNH: Where do the members of the parishes originate from?

Metropolitan Cleopas: The majority of Greeks come from Northern Greece, with fewer from Athens.

TNH: How is the Metropolis financially maintained?

Metropolitan Cleopas: The Metropolis receives annual financial assistance from the Swedish State, but mainly relies on income from Holy Sacraments and personal donations from individuals who know and support our ministry.

Metropolitan Cleopas give Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew the book commemorating the Patriarchal visit to Sweden. (Photo: provided by the Metropolis of Sweden)

TNH: How do the natives of Sweden view you? How do they view the Orthodox Church?

Metropolitan Cleopas: Swedes, as well as residents of the other Scandinavian countries, are known for their courtesy and quest for knowledge. In this context, they show particular interest in the Orthodox Church, as well as in our history, hence we enjoy special respect and appreciation.

TNH: Are there converts to Orthodoxy, and if so, from which backgrounds do they come?

Metropolitan Cleopas: In our Church, we witness an additional miracle: the influx of individuals seeking the truth and to experience the Orthodox Church.

From June 14, 2014, to December 31, 2023, 194 adults have embraced the Orthodox faith through Baptism and Chrismation, while from the beginning of the new year, 25 new individuals from various parts of the world are undergoing catechesis.

The Resurrection Service outside of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Stockholm. (Photo: provided by the Metropolis of Sweden)

TNH: Is there a future in terms of the number of community members?

Metropolitan Cleopas: I believe that in our case as well, what Scripture notes applies: the harvest is plentiful! Indeed, there is a future, and regularly, during my pastoral visits and in cities where there is no parish yet, I receive requests from Christians to establish a parish and serve our faithful at a local level.

The essential aspect for fulfilling the desire of our Christians is ensuring that there is a priest. Therefore, following the graphical narrative mentioned earlier, the laborers of the Gospel in my Metropolis are still few, and we are working to find worthy clergy who will undertake pastoral work in our parishes with a spirit of self-sacrifice and missionary zeal.

TNH: How would you describe the uniqueness and peculiarities of the Metropolis?

Metropolitan Cleopas: Certainly, as is each of us, each Metropolis is distinct, yet simultaneously members of the one Body of Christ, that is, members one of another.

Our main concern, as mentioned earlier, is finding clergy, as well as securing financial resources, to achieve the goals we have set.

TNH: What language do you use in worship?

Metropolitan Kleopas: The primary language is that of the Gospel, namely Greek, our mother tongue.

Metropolitan Cleopas converses with young Alexandros at the St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Stockholm. (Photo: provided by the Metropolis of Sweden)

During my tenure, the use of widely known and spread English language was established, which constitutes the second mother tongue of all Scandinavian countries, while, in each country, we also use the local dialect, namely Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic languages. Additionally, we proceeded with the issuance of the trilingual Divine Liturgy, in Greek, English, and Swedish, funded by the Apostolic Diaconate of the Church of Greece and under the supervision of its General Director, His Eminence Metropolitan Agathangelos of Fanarion.

TNH: What are some of the most pressing issues that require immediate attention?

Metropolitan Kleopas: Continuity of the thorough restoration of all the sacred churches belonging to the Metropolis, the establishment of new parishes, and the reinforcement of our pastoral work in each parish.

Our vision is the construction of the first Byzantine-style nave in Scandinavia and a Spiritual Polycenter, with camps, hospitality areas, and activities for all ages.

About Metropolitan Kleopas:

His Eminence Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and all Scandinavia, esteemed exarch of the Northern Countries, was born in Nea Smyrni, Athens in 1966. He studied Theology at the Theological Schools of the Universities of Athens, Thessaloniki, Durham (England), Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Harvard Divinity School, and Boston University in the United States. He was ordained Deacon and Presbyter by the late Metropolitan Cleopas of Thessaliotidos. He served at the Holy Metropolis of Thessaliotidos and the Holy Archdioceses of Thyateira as well as America, and was Professor at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA, Queens College in New York City, and the University of Massachusetts. He has published 12 books in Greek and English and several articles in theological journals in Greece and abroad. Metropolitan of Sweden was elected on May 5, 2014.

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