Catholic Church in Norway

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Catholic Church in Norway
Saint Paul Church Bergen Norway 2009 1.JPG
ClassificationCatholic Church
Origin934 A.D.

The Catholic Church in Norway is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope, the Curia in Rome and the Scandinavian Bishops Conference.

There were, as of May 2014, over 151,000 registered Catholics in Norway.[1] It is claimed there are many Catholics who are not registered with their personal identification number and who are not reported by the local church; the full number may be as high as 230,000, 70% of whom were born abroad.[2][3] That constitutes about 5% of the population, making Norway the most Catholic country in Nordic Europe.

However, in early 2015, the Bishop of Oslo was charged with fraud for reporting to the government as many as 65,000 names of people claimed as members of the church who had not actually signed up. As the government gives a subsidy to religious organizations according to the number of members, the diocese was ordered to repay the government.[4] The government reports for January 2015 that there were 95,655 registered Catholics, down from the 140,109 reported for January 2014.[5]


The country is divided into three Church districts – the Diocese of Oslo and the prelatures of Trondheim and Tromsø, and these three consist of 38 parishes. At least two more are about to come, a fourth one in the city of Oslo (St. Martin) and one in Valdres (St. Thomas, by now a chapel district), both in the diocese of Oslo. At least one more parish has been planned in Bergen for several years, but the plans remain on hold. The Catholic Church is the second largest religious community in Norway by number of registered members.

Four religious orders have returned to Norway: the Cistercians, Dominicans, the Poor Clares, and the Trappistines. In 2007,[6] monks from the Abbey of Cîteaux dedicated a new monastery at Frol near Levanger in Nord-Trøndelag, naming it Munkeby Mariakloster. Trappistine nuns, likewise, bought land near the ruins of a pre-Reformation monastery on the island of Tautra in the Trondheimsfjord, moved to the site and built a new cloister, workplace, guesthouse and chapel, calling the new monastery Tautra Mariakloster.[7] In addition to these four, 17 other orders are also working in the country,[8] for instance the Sisters of St. Francis Xavier (Franciskussøstre), which is a unique order as it was founded in Norway in 1901.[9] The Benedictines, who had a monastery on the island of Selja in the Medieval ages, were asked to return to Norway.[10]

The bishops of Oslo, Trondheim and Tromsø participate in the Scandinavian Bishops Conference. There used to be several Catholic hospitals and schools around the country. There was also a Catholic orphanage in Oslo. But, between 1967–89,[citation needed] the Socialist government in Norway bought most of the Catholic (and other private) hospitals by force and condemned the remainder. Almost all the schools were closed due to low enrollment except for some in Oslo, Arendal and Bergen.

Nowadays, the Catholic welfare institutions in Norway are limited. There are no Catholic hospitals or orphanages remaining, but the number of Catholic schools is increasing. In addition to the three schools mentioned above, a new elementary school has opened in Bodø.[11] There is Catholic high school in Bergen,[12] and an elementary school is planned for Drammen.[13] The Sisters of Saint Elizabeth operated St. Elizabeth's home for elderly in Oslo, until it was completely destroyed by fire in December 2014.[14]

Fransiskushjelpen (St. Francis Aid), a charity established in 1956 and run by Franciscans, remains active;[15] Caritas Europa has an office in Oslo.[16]


The Catholic Church in Norway is almost as old as the kingdom itself, dating from approximately 900 A.D., with the first Christian monarchs, Haakon I from 934. The country is considered to have officially converted upon the death of the king St. Olav at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. The subsequent Christianisation took several hundred years.

Largely the work of Anglo-Saxon missionaries, the Norwegian Church has been considered the only daughter of English Catholicism. Cardinal Nicholas Breakspear, later Pope Adrian IV, established a church province in 1152, the Archdiocese of Nidaros (Trondheim).

Reformation to 1843[edit]

The Lutheran Reformation in Norway lasted from 1526 to 1537. Catholic Church property and the personal property of Catholic priests were confiscated by the Crown. Catholic priests were exiled and imprisoned unless they submitted to conversion to the Danish king's faith. Bishop Jon Arason of Holar, executed in 1550, was the last Catholic bishop of Iceland (until the establishment of the Diocese of Reykjavik in 1923). The Bishop of Hamar from 1513–37, Mogens Lauritssøn, was imprisoned until his death in 1542.[17][18]

Many traditions from the Catholic Middle Ages continued for centuries more. In the late 18th century and into the 19th century, a strict and puritan interpretation of the Lutheran faith, inspired by the preacher Hans Nielsen Hauge, spread through Norway, and popular religious practices turned more purely Lutheran. The Catholic Church per se, however, was not allowed to operate in Norway between 1537 and 1843, and throughout most of this period, Catholic priests faced execution.[citation needed] In 1582, the scattered Catholics in Norway and elsewhere in Northern Europe were placed under the jurisdiction of a papal nuncio in Cologne, however, with threatening punishment Catholic pastoring could not materialise. In the late 16th century, a few incidents of crypto-Catholicism occurred within the Lutheran Church of Norway. However, these were isolated incidents.[citation needed]

The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, on its establishment in 1622, took charge of the vast Northern European missionary field, which – at its third session – it divided among the nuncio of Brussels (for the Catholics in Denmark and Norway), the nuncio at Cologne (much of Northern Germany) and the nuncio to Poland (Finland, Mecklenburg, and Sweden).[citation needed]

In 1688, Norway became part of the Apostolic Vicariate of the Nordic Missions.[citation needed] The Paderborn bishops functioned as administrators of the apostolic vicariate. Christiania (Oslo) had an illegal but tolerated Catholic congregation in the 1790s. In 1834, the Catholic missions in Norway became part of the Apostolic Vicariate of Sweden, seated in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. In 1843, the Norwegian Parliament passed a religious tolerance act providing for limited religious freedom and allowing for legal non-Lutheran public religious services for the first time since the Reformation.[citation needed]

Since legalisation in 1843[edit]

The first parish after the Reformation was established in the capital in 1843; a few years later Catholic places of worship were opened in Alta (Finnmark), Tromsø and Bergen.[19] Whereas Norway north of the polar circle became the Apostolic Prefecture of the North Pole in 1855,[citation needed] the rest of Norway stayed with the Swedish vicariate. When a new Norwegian Catholic missionary jurisdiction was established, it was not at any of the ancient episcopal sees but a mission “sui iuris” on 7 August 1868, created out of parts of North Pole prefecture and the Norwegian part of the Swedish vicariate. On 17 August 1869, the mission became the Apostolic Prefecture of Norway. On 11 March 1892, the Apostolic Prefecture of Norway was promoted to Apostolic Vicariate of Norway, with an altered name as the Apostolic Vicariate of Norway and Spitsbergen between 1 June 1913 and 15 December 1925. In 1897, the constitutional ban on religious orders was lifted, which in time led to the establishment of several communities and monasteries.

On 10 April 1931, the Apostolic Vicariate of Norway was divided into three separate Catholic jurisdictions:

  • Southern Norway: Apostolic Vicariate of Oslo (extant 1931–1953), upgraded to the Diocese of Oslo in 1953
  • Central Norway: Its jurisdiction (called Missionary District of Central Norway, 1931–1935; Apostolic Prefecture of Central Norway, 1935–1953; Apostolic Vicariate of Central Norway, 1953–1979) became the Prelature of Trondheim in 1979.
  • Norway north of the polar circle: Its jurisdiction (called Missionary District of Northern Norway, 1931–1944; Apostolic Prefecture of Northern Norway, 1944–1955; Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Norway, 1955–1979) now forms the Prelature of Tromsø.

Sigrid Undset[edit]

In November 1924 the well-known Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset was received into the Catholic Church, after thorough instruction from the Catholic priest in her local parish. She was 42 years old. She subsequently became a lay Dominican. It was the culmination of a long process whereby Undset – raised as a nominal Lutheran and for many years an agnostic – had experienced a crisis of faith due to the horrors of the First World War combined with the failure of her marriage. At the time of her move towards Catholicism she also wrote two series of historical novels, Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken, which take place in Medieval times when Norway had been a Catholic country [20], as well as having studied Old Norse manuscripts and Medieval chronicles and visited and examined Medieval churches and monasteries, both at home and abroad. In Norway, Undset's conversion to Catholicism was not only considered sensational; it was scandalous. At the time, there were very few practicing Catholics in Norway, which was an almost exclusively Lutheran country. Anti-Catholicism was widespread not only among the Lutheran clergy, but through large sections of the population. Likewise, there was just as much anti-Catholic scorn among the Norwegian intelligentsia, many of whom were adherents of socialism and communism. The attacks against her faith and character were quite vicious at times, with the result that Undset's literary gifts were aroused in response. For many years, she participated in the public debate, going out of her way to defend the Catholic Church. In response, she was swiftly dubbed "The Mistress of Bjerkebæk" and "The Catholic Lady".

Catholic immigrants[edit]

The Catholic Church remained very much a minority church of a few thousand people up to the decades following World War II. However, with increased immigration from the 1960s onwards, the Catholic Church grew quickly: from 6,000 in 1966 to 40,000 in 1996 and to over 200,000 in 2013.[21]

At first, the immigrants came from Germany, the Netherlands, and France. Immigration from Chile, the Philippines, and from a wide range of other countries began in the 1970s. Among the largest groups are Vietnamese and Tamils. This development has further increased after 2008 with a high number of economic migrants from Poland and Lithuania.[22] Poles, who number an estimated 120,000 as of 2006,[23] are currently the largest group of Catholics in Norway.


Year Members[24] Percent
1971 9,366 0.24%
1980 13,923 0.34%
1990 26,580 0.62%
2000 42,598 0.98%
2010 66,972 1.37%
2011 83,018 1.68%
2012 102,286 2.04%
2018 157,220
Municipality Catholics (2003)[25] Percent Catholics (2004)[25] Percent Catholics (2013)[26] Percent
Oslo komm.svg Oslo 14,908 2.8% 13,300 2.5% 34,000 5.4%
Bergen komm.svg Bergen 3,873 1.6% 4,044 1.7% 13,000 4,8%
Bærum komm.svg Bærum 1,816 1.7% 1,666 1.6% ___
Stavanger komm.svg Stavanger 1,720 1.5% 1,568 1.3% 10,000 [27] 7.7%
Trondheim komm.svg Trondheim 1,434 0.9% 1,416 0.9% 5,000 [28] 2.7%
Kristiansand komm.svg Kristiansand 1,251 1.6% 1,150 1.5% ___

List of Catholic parishes in Norway[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Tande, Claes (2 June 2014). "Hvor bor katolikkene?" [Where are Catholics?] (in Norwegian). Diocese of Oslo. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  2. ^ Hatlem, Bjørn Arild (14 December 2010). "Kolossal katolsk kyrkjevekst" [Colossal Catholic Church Growth]. Dagen. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Trolig 200.000 katolikker i Norge" [Probably 200,000 Catholics in Norway]. Vårt Land. 31 July 2012. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  4. ^ Gaffey, Conor (2 July 2015). "Catholic Church accused of defrauding Norway of €5.7m". Newsweek. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  5. ^ "Members of Christian communities outside the Church of Norway. Per 1 January". Statistics Norway. Government of Norway. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  6. ^ "Welcome". Munkeby Herberge. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Arctic Contemplatives". America. 202 (6): 4. 1 March 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  8. ^ "Ordenssamfunn i Norge" [Religious Communities in Norway] (in Norwegian). Diocese of Oslo. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  9. ^ Stensvold, Anne (14 February 2009). "Franciskussøstre". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  10. ^ Myren, Torill (19 September 2012). "Nytt kloster på Selja" [New Monastery at Selja]. Sunnmørsposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  11. ^ "St. Eystein skole" (in Norwegian). Municipality of Bodø Education. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  12. ^ Gundersen, Tor Helge (21 August 2012). "Nå har Norge fått sin første katolske videregående skole" [Now Norway Has Its First Catholic High School]. Dagen. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  13. ^ Kalstad, Lisa Marit (February 2012). "Vil åpne katolsk skole i Drammen" [Catholic school will open in Drammen]. Vårt Land (in Norwegian). Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  14. ^ Nordli, Øyvind; Holm, Per Annar; Stoltenberg, Kristin (16 December 2014). "Én omkommet i brann i Oslo" [One killed in fire in Oslo]. Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Oslo. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  15. ^ "Om Fransiskushjelpen" [About Fransiskushjelpen]. Fransiskushjelpen. Retrieved 2015-08-24.
  16. ^ "About Caritas Norway". Caritas Norway. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  17. ^ Bang, Anton Christian (1912). Den Norske kirkes historie [The History of the Norwegian Church]. Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel Nordisk Forlag. p. 322.
  18. ^ Willson, Thomas Benjamin (1903). History of the Church and State in Norway: from the Tenth to the Sixteenth Century. Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd. p. 347.
  19. ^ "". Den katolske kirke. 31 March 2006. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  20. ^ "Sigrid Undset: Catholic Viking"
  21. ^ Bentz, Jan (26 February 2013). "The Church in Norway: Explosive Growth, Long Distances". Zenit News Agency.
  22. ^ Slettholm, Andreas (3 December 2012). "Nå er det flere katolikker enn muslimer i Norge" [There are now more Catholics than Muslims in Norway]. Aftenposten. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  23. ^ Moe, Ingeborg (3 September 2006). "120.000 polakker i Norge" [120,000 Poles in Norway]. Afterposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  24. ^ "Religious communities and other philosophical communities". Statistics Norway. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  25. ^ a b "Kommuner med minst 50 katolikker pr. 31.12.2004" [Municipalities with more than 50 Catholics on 31 December 2004] (in Norwegian). Diocese of Oslo. 24 November 2005. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  26. ^ Tessem, Liv Berti (29 March 2013). "Høytid for sorg, håp og glede" [Holy Days for Sorrow, Hope and Joy]. Afterposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  27. ^ "St. Svithun runder 10.000 medlemmer" [St. Swithin Rounds 10,000 members]. Nyheter St. Svithun Menighet. Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  28. ^ Landrø, Juliet (16 August 2012). "Må rive Blekens hovedverk" [Raze Bleken's Masterpiece]. NRK News. Retrieved 24 August 2015.


  • Official website of the Catholic Church of Norway,; accessed 21 September 2016. (in Norwegian)
  • Kjelstrup, Karl (1943). Norvegia catholica: moderkirkens gjenreisning i Norge: et tilbakeblikk i anledning av 100-årsminnet for opprettelsen av St. Olavs menighet i Oslo, 1843–1943 (in Norwegian). Oslo: Oslo apostolic vicariate. p. 418.
  • Brodersen, Øistein Grieve (1943). Norge-Rom, 1153–1953: Jubileumsskrift, 800 år siden opprettelsen av Den norske kirkeprovins (in Norwegian). Trondheim. p. 49.