Catholic Church in Sweden

Catholic Church in Sweden
Swedish: Katolska kyrkan i Sverige
Katolska Domkyrkan Stockholm.JPG
TheologyCatholic theology
GovernanceScandinavian Bishops Conference
BishopAnders Arborelius
Apostolic NuncioJames Green
LanguageSwedish, English, Latin
FounderSt. Ansgar
OriginCirca 826[1]
1594-1599 de facto reestablished by King Sigismund of Sweden
1781 legally reestablished as an apostolic vicariate
MembersCirca 113,000 registered members
(circa 150,000 unofficially)[2]
Official websiteCatholic Church in Sweden (English)

The Catholic Church in Sweden was established by Archbishop Ansgar in Birka in 829, and further developed by the Christianization of Sweden in the 9th century. King Olof Skötkonung (ca. 970-1021) is considered the first Christian king of Sweden.

In the Middle Ages, continental culture, philosophy and science spread to Sweden through the Catholic Church, which also founded schools, Uppsala University, hospitals as well as monasteries and convents. Several church representatives also became significant actors outside the religious sphere.

The Reformation in Sweden began in 1527 when King Gustav Vasa and his Riksdag of Västerås broke the full communion of the Swedish church with the Pope in Rome, and instead made it politically controlled by the kingdom. Controversies about the state of Catholicism in the Swedish church endured, however, even until the reigns of King John III (1568-1592) and the Catholic King Sigismund of Sweden (1592-1599).

At the Uppsala Synod in 1593, under the influence of Duke and future King Charles IX of Sweden, the Swedish church finally became a Lutheran state church, ratified by Charles' victory in his war against his Catholic predecessor in 1599. Governmental anti-Catholicism was imposed in Sweden, including deportations and death penalties for Catholics in 1599-1781.

Limited visits of individual foreign Catholics in Sweden were decriminalised through the Tolerance Act, imposed in 1781 by King Gustav III of Sweden. The conversion of Swedish citizens to the Catholic Church was decriminalized in 1860. In 1951, Swedish citizens were allowed to exit from the Lutheran Church of Sweden. In 1977, the last legislative ban on Catholic convents in Sweden was abolished. Still, however, according to the Act of Succession of the Swedish throne, only Lutheran legitimate descendants brought up in Sweden are presently entitled to succeed as monarch and the thus head of state of Sweden.

Since 1953, the Catholic Church in Sweden is formally represented by the Diocese of Stockholm, covering the whole country, estimating some 106,873 registered members (2013), with unofficial estimates of about 150,000 Catholics in the country in total. Most of them have an immigrant background, while others are native Swede converts.

Sankta Maria i Rosengård, a Catholic church in Rosengård, Malmö

On May 21, 2017 Pope Francis named Bishop Anders Arborelius, the Ordinary of Stockholm, a Cardinal, a first for the Catholic Church in Sweden.[3]


When the Swedish state gave "registered denominations" legal status in 2000, and the associations that had until that point organised the Catholic Church in Sweden became defunct, the church lost the right to the ordinary name. The administration of the diocese took it for granted that the name was the Catholic Church, that they had never applied to legally patent the name. Several smaller denominations, among them the Liberal Catholic Church, and the Old Catholic Church, opposed it calling itself the "Catholic Church". The solution was similar to the United Kingdom, where "Roman Catholic" has long been used to disambiguate from the high church movement of the Anglican Church that refer to themselves as "Anglo-Catholics".[4] The church is therefore now registered under Swedish law as the "Roman Catholic Church" (Swedish: "Romersk-katolska kyrkan").