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Meet Sweden’s first ever cardinal

The Bishop of Stockholm receives the red hat on Wednesday 28 June 2017

Last time I met Bishop Anders Arborelius, we were toasting the canonisation of Mother Elisabeth Hesselblad, the Bridgetine nun who brought the order back to Sweden in the 19th century after its suppression following the Reformation. When I meet him now, he is preparing to receive the red hat at a consistory of cardinals in Rome on June 28.

When he was appointed Bishop of Stockholm in 1998, the Carmelite priest became the first ethnic Swedish bishop since the Reformation. This month he will become the first cardinal in Swedish history.

He tells me that his appointment as cardinal is significant not only for him, but for all Swedish Catholics, who are a tiny minority in the largely Lutheran country. It’s special “because we are not used to cardinals in our part of the world, and people think it is very thrilling and somehow it shows that the Holy Father is interested in us.” He says it’s as if Pope Francis was telling Swedish Catholics that “you are also important in a secular, pluralistic country as a minority”.

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