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The thunderous yes to God

An interview with Antje Jackelen, head of the Swedish Lutheran Diocese of Lund

Antje Jackelen, Lutheran Bishop of Lund, considers herself to be the daughter of the Enlightenment, something often claimed by secular humanists. "Actually, I say that I am the daughter of the Christian Church, of the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment. But I was trained by the German Enlightenment, which represented a lesser threat to religion when compared to the French. I am influenced by Kant and his conviction that faith and reason complement each other. His "dare to know" has encouraged people to leave their self-imposed immaturity. Faith, however, does not contradict reason, it transcends it. Christianity is a liberating force. I am critical of the narrow and anti-historical view that secular humanists have of the Enlightenment, as if it were to confer an additional value to natural science over and above religion. I also challenge the understanding of the postmodern era as an out-and-out relativism. I prefer instead a positive interpretation: not everything is construction, but practically everything which we deal with - the facts of science, faith and life - is accompanied by construction. Being stuck in a construction is not necessarily a sign of a lack of truth and of rationality, but rather a sign of complexity. "
Benedict XVI could agree. "Yes, this may also be a part of the Catholic tradition. When I mention Kant, Catholics often refer to Thomas Aquinas. I would like to quote Nathan the Wise, a drama by the Enlightenment German, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. It is the story of a father, three sons and three rings, which symbolize the three Abrahamic religions. The point is that religions should compete with each other in compassion and goodness in order to reveal the truth. This does not mean that the truth does not exist, but that we can be confident that it will be revealed. "
As a bishop, what do you think is your most important function? "It is very well described in our rite of consecration. These are words that I love: they speak of the special ministry of the bishop, as part of God's people, to take care of the dioceses, parishes, to ensure that the word of God is proclaimed clearly, that the sacraments are administered correctly and that charity is practiced according to the will of God. The bishop should ordain, visit and search out, should see, hear and decide, should strengthen the people of God in their vocation to read the signs of the times and to bear witness of the mighty deeds of God . I also think that the bishop should participate in the public debate, siding with religion and showing the important contribution it makes to society. In several articles I have stated that in Sweden we need a better dialogue on religion in order to promote growth. I was criticized for having used the word "growth". But of course I was not referring only to economic growth: we also need spiritual growth."
Is there anything you particularly appreciate in the Kyrkan Svenska (Swedish Church)? "Given my background, I tend to compare it to the German Protestant one. And I think the Svenska Kyrkan is ahead regarding the reading of the signs of the times. There is a lot of creativity in the preparation for Confirmation, and there are many parishes that are resisting a tendential decrease in the number of young people in courses for Confirmation. In the eyes of German Protestants, the Svenska Kyrkan has retained much of Catholic culture. Perhaps the reason is that the Reformation was introduced by the state, as in England. There was no need to create a new, contrasting culture. "
Is there anything you envy in the Catholic Church? "Yes, the strong sense of belonging, of the family, the deep loyalty that many Catholics feel for their Church, even if perhaps the criticise many aspects of it."
How do you see Martin Luther? "I think that in Sweden we have a mistaken view of Luther. He is considered to be gloomy and moralist, but I do not think that he was. He said things like: "Do you feel depressed? Well, drink a glass of wine and pick yourself up. " Perhaps the fifth centenary of the Reformation, which will be celebrated in 2017, could be an opportunity to put things back in place, and of course also to show to what extent the Christian denominations have grown in ecumenism, in Christian camaraderie and in friendship, especially at the basic level. "
One last question. How do you see Mary who occupies a much more important place in Catholic Christianity, when compared with the Protestant view? "We have Marian hymns and celebrate the Annunciation. We highlight her humanity and her courage. For me Mary is a young woman who takes God very seriously, but also herself as a person very seriously. She believes that she can make an important contribution to the plan of God. She is not a docile little girl. She utters a thunderous yes to God. The Magnificat, which has become part of evening prayer of the Church, is extraordinary in its power, in its strength. Mary, in this way can inspire the young women who doubt themselves, who perhaps inflict wounds on themselves, to escape from that prison and to take their place in the world. "




St. Peter’s Square

Dec. 10, 2019