Pastoral Letter 2014 of Bishop Peter Bürcher

“Therefore you are to be perfect, says Jesus, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5, 48)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This word of Jesus today is valid for everyone and especially for the religious.

On the 31st of January 2014, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of the Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, informed that Pope Francis had decided, on the 29th of November last year, that 2015 would be the Year for Consecrated Life. “First of all,” the Cardinal said, “this Year dedicated to consecrated life has been prepared in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council … Because we recognize these 50 years that separate us from the Council as a moment of grace for consecrated life, as marked by the presence of the Spirit that leads us to live even our weaknesses and infidelities as an experience of God's mercy and love, we want this Year to be an occasion for 'gratefully remembering' this recent past".

Like every year, I recently invited our religious in Iceland to a meeting. Together we prayed, ate, shared and celebrated Mass. This meeting was also a sign of our appreciation to nearly 40 religious men and women who now work and pray in the Catholic Church in Iceland. There are 8 religious priests and the following sisters:

The Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, DCJ, in Akureyri and Egilsstaðir.

The Discalced, contemplative Carmelites, OCD, in the Carmelite Monastery, Hafnarfjörður.

The Mexican sisters from Guadalajara, in Landakot.

The Missionaries of Charity, in Reykjavík.

The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, IVE, in Hafnarfjörður and Stykkishólmur.

Most of them are young. They are a sign of hope for our Church! They are a gift from God! Therefore, we are very thankful to God.

Our gratitude to God also relates to the past. Various religious congregations have been working in Iceland for more than hundred years and were a major force of Church life. The Catholic Mission in Iceland was under the responsibility of the Montfortians since 1903. In the 20th Century the Sisters of Joseph of Chambery, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the Carmelite Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy were present in Iceland. They prayed and worked. They built and managed schools. They built hospitals, some of them were the first in Iceland. They even built the largest church in Iceland, at that time, for only 55 Catholics. This is the today's Christ the King Cathedral which is now too small every Sunday! Now the Catholic Church in Iceland owns 17 churches and chapels. But it still has to build or buy more! The number of Catholics has indeed doubled in the last ten years in Iceland! What a great and wonderful work has been done by our priests and religious, with the help of active laymen, all to the glory of God and the service of their fellow man! Certainly mistakes have been made and sins committed, but first and foremost so much good and uplifting! Thanks to God!

Today our eight diocesan priests and our forty religious serve more than 11,000 Catholics in Iceland. Most of the religious are young and they are also very active in the catechesis and youth ministry and help to give the Catholic Church in Iceland a new impetus.

Dear brothers and sisters, in addition I would like to establish a male monastery, if possible with the Benedictines or Augustinians who in the Middle Ages possessed several monasteries in Iceland. We have already found a large piece of land with houses and a heated church in Úlfljótsvatn. Now we have to find a monastic community! I have undertaken a lot to find it and hope soon for a fulfillment of my dream which has become one of many people in Iceland and abroad! This year we especially want to pray for the Vita Consecrata and namely through the intercession of the soon-to-be canonized John Paul II. The cross which reminds us of his pastoral visit to Iceland and the Nordic countries is already standing on the land of Úlfljótsvatn! This year it will be twenty-five years since his visit!

We thank God for all our generous priests and religious as well as for our committed laymen in the young and growing Catholic Church in Iceland. Let us pray, especially this year, for many new vocations among the people of God!

“Therefore you are to be perfect, says Jesus, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

Amen. Your Bishop Peter