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75 YEARS OF CATHOLIC
In 2006, the
Church celebrates 75 years on the Faroe Islands since the
re-establishment of the church in April, 1931.
Kirjubøur: spiritual and cultural centre of
the Faroe Islands
from time of the first
settlers to the Reformation.
several churches, a bishop´s residence and seminary.
In 1857, German priest, Georg Bauer and Italian
assistant-priest, Luigi Mussa sailed to the Faroe
Islands on the ship, “Fortuna” - eight years after the granting
of religious freedom in Denmark. Initially, the priests met with much suspicion
and opposition, unable even to find lodgings. However, in 1859, a house was
purchased from Christian Holm in Rættará, in the capital, Tórshavn, and Fr.
Bauer began building a church which was completed in June of the same year. 70
people participated in the first church service which was followed a few days
later by the first Confirmation in the church. Fr. Bauer spent the next twelve
years in Tórshavn, during which time several Faroese people were received into
When Fr. Bauer left the Faroes in 1872, priests continued
to visit regularly until 1894, when a final visit was made to the only remaining
Catholic on the islands, an elderly lady living in Hvítanes, a small village
just outside Tórshavn.
was not to be the end of the Catholic Church on the Faroe Islands. Once again,
it would rise like a phoenix from the ashes when Cardinal Van Rossum visited the
islands on the way to Iceland in 1929. He was greatly saddened by the fact that
the Catholic Church was no longer present. He was also deeply touched by the
plight of the people at that time who were living in harsh conditions. On
returning to Rome, he spoke to two newly ordained priests, Fr. E.G. Boekenoogen
from Holland and Fr. Thomas King from Scotland, and to members of the Franciscan
Missionaries of Mary about the possibility of re-establishing the Catholic
In April, 1931, two Franciscan Missionaries of Mary
sailed to the Faroe Islands on the ship, “Dr. Alexandrina”, and arrived in
Tórshavn in lay dress, fearful of the reception they might receive. One of the
sisters was Danish and had been re-called from China, having spent many years
living and working amongst the people of that country. The other sister was
Dutch. The two priests arrived the following month. More sisters arrived later.
In the beginning, the two priests found lodgings in
the town. The sisters also found lodgings after some difficulty. In August, they
rented rooms in a house owned by the Klett family in Bringsnagøta, Tórshavn.
Very soon, people guessed the identity of the sisters and began approaching them
for help in educating and looking after their children. Within the year, they
had established the first kindergarten on the Faroe Islands and were responsible
for twenty-two children, several of whom are still amongst us today. A decision
was taken by the bishop of the Diocese of Copenhagen (Faroe
Islands, Denmark and Greenland) and the Franciscan Missionaries of
purchase land outside the town, now known as Mariugøta and Varðagøta, and build
a school and church. There was strong public opposition from some quarters, but
the church and school were completed and blessed in November, 1933 and January,
1934, respectively, during services attended by about sixty people, including
eleven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
Construction continued for several years, funded partly by
a very popular two day Bazaar which was held each year at Olavsøku - the
national festival during which St. Olav, patron saint of the Faroe Islands is
remembered - and the hard work of the sisters, leading to the enlargement of the
school and the construction of a crèche and kindergarten. For a short time
during the sixties, there were no less than twenty-three sisters. A large number
of the citizens of Tórshavn passed through the hands of the sisters who became
known for the quality of their dedication and their religious tolerance. Several
Faroese people found their way into the Catholic Church, thus the small Catholic
community began to grow once more.
By the 1980´s however, it was evident that the sisters
could not continue to run the three institutions. There were a number of
reasons: the diminishing number of sisters; the increasing financial burden of
running three institutions; and the development of the Faroese childcare and
education system which had taken place over fifty years. After negotiation, it
was agreed that Tórshavn Town Council would take over the school (including the
church) and crèche and build a convent and church for the sisters. The
kindergarten remains under the direction of a Franciscan Missionaries of Mary
and two other sisters are also members of the staff. The sisters moved into the
new convent, “Kerit” (1 Kings 17: 2-6) in April, 1980. The new parish church,
Mariukirkjan, was built and blessed during an
ecumenical service in August 1987.
View of the Catholic
and convent (Kerit)
from Varðagøta, Torshavn.
Since the sudden the death of the last permanent parish
priest, Per Waagø, in 1990, the parish has been administered by Paul Marx, OMI.,
August Ziggelaar, SJ., and Lars Messerschmidt. Several priests serve the parish
on a rota basis. Christian Gabrielsen, ordained deacon, holds prayer services.
Today, there are six FMM on the Faroe Islands from
four different countries: Belgium, Ireland, Korea and Malta. There are
approximately 150 Catholics throughout the islands, at least a third of whom are
Fareose. A few young parishioners trace their roots back five generations;
others trace their roots back to their grandparents. Faroese people are received
into the Catholic Church at regular intervals. Two Fareose parishioner
represented the Catholic Church and the Faroe Islands during the visit of Pope
John Paul II to Denmark in 1989. Both were attired in national dress and had the
privilege of receiving Holy Communion from Pope John Paul. The other
parishioners come from 23 different nations: Denmark, and various countries of
Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America and Oceania.
75 Year Celebration
On Sunday, 25th. June 2006, the parish
community celebrated the 75th. anniversary of the re-establishment of
the Catholic Church on the Faroe Islands in 1931 and the founding of the present
Catholic community. Bishop Kozon and parish priest, Fr. Lars Messerschmidt, made
a special weekend visit to the Faroes. Bishop Kozon was the main celebrant. The
singing was accompanied by parishioners, Ole Jacob Nielsen (flute) and Maria
Magnussen (violin) and several other musicians. The Mass was televised and
transmitted on Faroese Television in the afternoon. About 100 people -
parishioners, neighbours, friends, and tourists – participated at the Mass. The
Lutheran bishop was a special guest. One of the tourists turned out to be a
former President of Ecuador (1992-97)! Mass was followed by a special “canopy”
reception in the parish hall. Several speeches were made as people relaxed and
mixed with each other.