On January 27-31, 2024, the Minister General, Friar Carlos TROVARELLI, visited Finland in response to an invitation he received more than a year ago from Catholic and Lutheran communities there. He was accompanied by the Assistant General for the Centralis Europae Foederatio (CEF), Friar Igor SALMIČ and Friar Silvano BIANCO, the Minister General’s private secretary.

Our Order currently does not have a presence in Finland, but in the past, it was very active there, at least until the advent of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.
Yet, in recent years, a meaningful friendship has developed between our Order and the local communities there, so much so, that the Minister General’s visit, which was so welcomed and expected, proved equally meaningful.

The Meeting with Catholics

The Minister General first visited Helsinki, the capitol of Finland, as well as the village of Porlammi. The Most Reverend Raimo GOYARROLA BELDA, the newly appointed Catholic Bishop of Helsinki, was particularly welcoming and fraternal in telling the visitors all about the life of the local Catholic Church. The Church here represents less than 1% of the population. However, it’s a percentage that has been constantly growing in recent years, and will require new energy, projects, financial means and buildings in which to host pastoral activities. The Catholic community here is very lively and active, as could be seen during the Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Henry in Helsinki. The cathedral was packed with faithful of all ages and nationalities.
The Franciscan Family is still present here through the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS); the visitors were welcomed by Mr. Risto MANTOVANI, a member of the OFS of Finland, and by Professor Pauli ANNALA and his wife Eeva, who hosted the friars at their home in Porlammi, a village featuring a wooden chapel dedicated to San Damiano, which is a destination for retreats and pilgrimages.

Rauma: The Franciscan Legacy among the Lutheran Faithful

The second part of the visit took place in Rauma, the historic site of our Conventual Franciscan presence until 1538. The Lutheran community greeted the arrival of the friars with particular affection and emotion, showing a rare sensitivity to Franciscan spirituality.
This visit was made possible thanks to the exquisite hospitality of the Lutheran Pastor and Regional Dean, Reverend Valtteri VIRTA, and the tireless work of his collaborator, Reverend Taneli ALA-OPAS, a former student at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
On the evening of January 29, a noteworthy informal meeting was held with some faithful and ministers of the Lutheran parish. The meeting was followed by the solemn celebration of ecumenical Vespers in the church, a church that once belonged to the Franciscans. The following day, in the same church, a Latin rite Mass was celebrated in the presence of the Catholic faithful and many Lutheran brothers.
During the Mass, an ancient chalice used by the friars during their presence, and carefully preserved by the local community, was made available to Friar Carlos while he presided.
It is amazing to see the love the community has always had for St. Francis of Assisi and his friars. St. Francis is still present in the hearts, minds and names of the people of Rauma and is seen in the names of its streets as well.
The visit ended in Turku, the former capital of Finland, now the seat of the National Lutheran Church. The visitors were welcomed by members of the local hierarchy, at their diocesan curia, and, also at the imposing Cathedral of Turku. While there, this desire was expressed in prayer: Will Finland see the return of the Friars Minor Conventual after so many centuries?

Friar Igor SALMIČ