From protestant to cardinal

From protestant to cardinal

Lars Anders Arborelius, Catholic Bishop of Stockholm © Julia Rathcke (KNA)

Pope has appointed five new cardinals. One of them is Lars Anders Arborelius from Sweden. "I think this is a sign," Bishop Arborelius tells our site interview.

Interviewer: Have you already become accustomed to being addressed as "Eminence Cardinal"??

Cardinal Lars Anders Arborelius: It is a bit unusual. And here in Sweden you just stay bishop, but you are welcome to say "eminence" if you like it.
Interviewer: You are the first cardinal to come from Sweden and also the first cardinal to come from Northern Europe, from Scandinavia. What does it mean for you?

Cardinal Lars Anders Arborelius: Yes, that is incredible. But I think this is a sign that our church is also an important but humble part of the world church.

Interviewer: Let’s look at their lives and talk about their personal life stories. They were born in Switzerland, in a Swedish family, they were baptized Protestant and also confirmed. You became a Catholic at the age of 20 and entered the Carmelite monastery at the age of 22. What is behind it? Why did you go this way?

Cardinal Lars Anders Arborelius: Well, I have had contact with the Catholic Church since I was a child and a young man. And that is through contact in Switzerland with Catholic sisters. And that had a great influence on me, so I came closer and closer to the church. I grew up in the Protestant Church, but I was never an active member. I had always been a believer, as long as I know. I have always prayed, but in my childhood I never went to church. So it was a gradual approach to the church. After graduating from high school, I then followed a faith course for a year and a half. And then I became completely convinced that the Catholic Church can communicate the full truth and transmit the good news to all of us.

Interviewer: What did the Catholic Church give you that you did not find in the Protestant Church??

Cardinal Lars Anders Arborelius: I won’t say anything against the Protestant Church, it’s just that I’ve never really felt at home there. The Catholic Church has been the Church for me as long as I have known. And there I found everything that was important for me: an intimate prayer life, a worldwide community of solidarity, and a mother who gave me everything.

Interviewer: You didn’t just become a Catholic at the age of 20, you entered the Carmelite order two years later, at the age of 22. What would you have said back then about the fact that almost 50 years later you are not only a bishop, not only a cardinal, but the first cardinal in Scandinavia??

Cardinal Lars Anders Arborelius: I would probably have laughed and said "that is not imaginable, that is not possible".

Interviewer: I would like to talk to you briefly about the moment last week when you were named Cardinal by the Pope. How did you experience the moment yourself? What goes through your mind at a time like this?

Cardinal Lars Anders Arborelius: So, one is of course very grateful, very happy. But of course you also feel very small, very humble. That is so big and almost not to believe. The Pope received all of us with a lot of love and also the reception of the different cardinals was really very beautiful. And I was surprised that so many cardinals had something to do with Sweden.

Interviewer: But you are also one of the cardinals who do not come from the large metropolitan regions, not from the regions where the Church has a very important position. What do you think is the significance of this?

Cardinal Lars Anders Arborelius: I think that it was a sign for us, for the new cardinals. That the Pope is really open to the little ones, the poor in the Church. Although we are not powerful, we do not have many believers. El Salvador is a predominantly Catholic country, but a country that has suffered a lot. So, somehow he wants to give the whole church the opportunity to come together in solidarity and unity.

Interviewer: Afterwards, you also visited Pope Emeritus Benedict…

Cardinal Lars Anders Arborelius: Yes, that was a very touching moment. When we made this trip together with Pope Francis in a small bus. And the old Pope Benedict received us very affectionately, it was also very beautiful to see how these two Popes come together and how much love there is between them. That was also a very beautiful and important moment.

Interviewer: What was your personal impression of Benedict? So, have you been able to talk to him?

Cardinal Lars Anders Arborelius: Yes, he was very happy that the first cardinal came from Sweden. And of course I greeted him in German. He was also very surprised that now four countries have a cardinal for the first time.

The interview was conducted by Renardo Schlegelmilch.

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