Roman Catholicism in Norway

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Roman Catholic Church in Norway
Saint Paul Church Bergen Norway 2009 1.JPG
Classification Catholic Church
Region Norway
Origin 934 A.D.

Roman Catholicism 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] But there are also lots of Catholics who are not registered with their personal identification number and who are not reported by the local church; the real number is probably about 230,000 Catholics, 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 members possibly as many as 65,000 names of people who had not actually signed up. Since the government gives a subsidy to religious organizations according to the number of members, the diocese was also ordered to repay the government.[4]


The country is divided into three Church districts – the Diocese of Oslo and the prelatures of Trondheim and Tromsø, and these three consist of 35 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 of them 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 biggest 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,[5] 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.[6] In addition to these four, 17 other orders are also working in the country,[7] for instance the Sisters of St. Francis Xavier ( Franciskussøstre ), which is a unique order because it was founded in Norway in 1901.[8] Also the Benedictines, who had a monastery on the island of Selja in the Medieval ages, have been asked to return to Norway.[9]

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 and 1989,[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 because of low enrollment except a few 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.[10] There's a Catholic high school in Bergen, [11] and an elementary school is planned for Drammen.[12] The Sisters of Saint Elizabeth operated St. Elizabeth's home for elderly in Oslo, until it was completely destroyed by fire in December 2014.[13]

Fransiskushjelpen (The St. Francis Aid), a charity established in 1956 and run by Franciscans, remains active;[14] Caritas Europa has an office in Oslo.[15]


The Catholic Church in Norway is 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 ). The prosperous years of the High Middle Ages were followed by decline for Church and nation alike.

Reformation to 1843[edit]

The Lutheran Reformation in Norway lasted from 1526 to 1536. 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 to 1537, Mogens Lauritssøn, was imprisoned until his death in 1542.[16][17]

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. 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.

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).

In 1688, Norway became part of the Apostolic Vicariate of the Nordic Missions. The Paderborn bishops functioned as administrators of the apostolic vicariate. Christiania (Oslo) had an illegal but tolerated Catholic congregation in the 1790s. Pockets of Roman Catholic faith survived in remote parts of the Kingdom until approximately 1800.

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.

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. Whereas Norway north of the polar circle became the Apostolic Prefecture of the North Pole in 1855, 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.

Religious sisters working in hospitals and schools did much to overcome popular suspicions about Catholics. Sigrid Undset, a Catholic convert, and the Rev. Hallvard Rieber-Mohn, O.P., also contributed to this. Lutherans and Catholics came closer together in firm opposition to the Quisling regime during the German occupation between 1940 and 1945.

In 1956, the final constitutional restriction on Catholics was lifted when Jesuits were allowed to enter the country for the first time since the formation of that order in 1540, though it is known that at least one Jesuit - Xavier Rénom de la Baume - was killed in action with French Alpine forces during the Battles of Narvik.[citation needed]

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. Around the country, the local congregations consisted of a few families each. 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.[18]

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 immigrants from Poland and Lithuania.[19]

Poles, who number an estimated 120,000 as of 2006,[20] are currently the largest group of Catholics in Norway, and possibly the majority.


Year Members[21] 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%
Municipality Catholics (2003)[22] Percent Catholics (2004)[22] Percent Catholics (2013)[23] 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%
Barum komm.png Bærum 1,816 1.7% 1,666 1.6% ___
Stavanger komm.png Stavanger 1,720 1.5% 1,568 1.3% 10,000 [24] 7.7%
Trondheim komm.svg Trondheim 1,434 0.9% 1,416 0.9% 5,000 [25] 2.7%
Kristiansand komm.png Kristiansand 1,251 1.6% 1,150 1.5% ___

List of Roman Catholic parishes in Norway[edit]

See also[edit]

List of Christian monasteries in Norway



General references:

  • (Norwegian) Official website of the Catholic Church of Norway
  • 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. 

Specific citations:

  1. ^ Tande, Claes (2 June 2014). "Hvor bor katolikkene?" [Where are Catholics?] (in Norwegian). Diocese of Oslo. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  2. ^ Hatlem, Bjørn Arild (14 December 2010). "Kolossal katolsk kyrkjevekst" [Colossal Catholic Church Growth]. Dagen. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  3. ^ "Trolig 200.000 katolikker i Norge" [Probably 200,000 Catholics in Norway]. Vårt Land. 31 July 2012. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  4. ^ Gaffey, Conor (2 July 2015). "Catholic Church accused of defrauding Norway of €5.7m". Newsweek. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  5. ^ "Welcome". Munkeby Herberge. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  6. ^ "Arctic Contemplatives". America 202 (6): 4. 1 March 2010. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  7. ^ "Ordenssamfunn i Norge" [Religious Communities in Norway] (in Norwegian). Diocese of Oslo. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  8. ^ Stensvold, Anne (14 February 2009). Franciskussøstre "Franciskussøstre" Check |url= scheme (help). Store norske leksikon. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  9. ^ Myren, Torill (19 September 2012). "Nytt kloster på Selja" [New Monastery at Selja]. Sunnmørsposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  10. ^ "St. Eystein skole" (in Norwegian). Municipality of Bodø Education. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  11. ^ 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 2015-08-24. 
  12. ^ Kalstad, Lisa Marit (February 2012). "Vil åpne katolsk skole i Drammen" [Catholic school will open in Drammen]. Vårt Land (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  13. ^ 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 2015-08-24. 
  14. ^ "Om Fransiskushjelpen" [About Fransiskushjelpen]. Fransiskushjelpen. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  15. ^ "About Caritas Norway". Caritas Norway. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  16. ^ Bang, Anton Christian (1912). Den Norske kirkes historie [The History of the Norwegian Church]. Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel Nordisk Forlag. p. 322. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ Bentz, Jan (26 February 2013). "The Church in Norway: Explosive Growth, Long Distances". Zenit News Agency. 
  19. ^ 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 2015-08-24. 
  20. ^ Moe, Ingeborg (3 September 2006). "120.000 polakker i Norge" [120,000 Poles in Norway]. Afterposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  21. ^ "Religious communities and other philosophical communities". Statistics Norway. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  22. ^ 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 2015-08-24. 
  23. ^ Tessem, Liv Berti (29 March 2013). "Høytid for sorg, håp og glede" [Holy Days for Sorrow, Hope and Joy]. Afterposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  24. ^ "St. Svithun runder 10.000 medlemmer" [St. Swithin Rounds 10,000 members]. Nyheter St. Svithun Menighet. Retrieved 2014-01-17. [dead link]
  25. ^ Landrø, Juliet (16 August 2012). "Må rive Blekens hovedverk" [Raze Bleken's Masterpiece]. NRK News. Retrieved 2015-08-24.