STOCKHOLM – H.E. Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and All Scandinavia traveled to the outskirts of the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, 1000 kilometers from his see in Stockholm, from Friday March 18th to Sunday March 20th 2022, accompanied by the Presiding Priest of the Annunciation Metropolitan Church in Oslo V. Rev. Fr. Alexandros Loukatos, to conduct an archpastoral visit to the Orthodox Missionary Community of the Transfiguration of Christ in Överkalix.
In the midst of Great Lent, thanks to the easing of pandemic restrictions, the Metropolitan was able to visit the Transfiguration of Christ Missionary Community, which was established in the year 2000 and previously operated under the aegis of the former Exarchate of Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe. After the dissolution of the Exarchate, the mission came under the canonical jurisdiction of the Holy Metropolis of Sweden.
On Friday afternoon, the two clergymen were met at Luleå airport by the Rev. Deacon Urban Widetun, who took them to the Transfiguration Chapel, where they were welcome by the parish priest Rev. Dr. Benedikt (Bengt) Pohjanen and his wife Presbytera Monika.
Afterwards, His Eminence presided over the office of the Great Compline and the 2nd Stanza of the Salutations to the Theotokos at the Transfiguration Chapel, which is adorned by over 100 portable icons, written by Presbytera Monika Pohjanen.
On Saturday noon, Metropolitan Cleopas and Fr. Alexandros attended a luncheon that was graciously offered by the Parish Council of the aforementioned mission, followed by a parish council meeting which they attended together with Fr. Benedikt and Deacon Urban, during which the parish council members expressed their gratitude to the Holy Metropolis for its continued moral and financial support. On his part, Metropolitan Cleopas congratulated Fr. Benedikt for his very commendable missionary, pastoral, and literature ministry, along with Presbytera Monica for adorning the chapel with handmade Slavic-style icons.
That afternoon, the Metropolitan officiated the offices of Vespers and Matins (according to the Slavic rite) and engaged in a conversation with the youth of the mission.
On Sunday morning, Metropolitan Cleopas presided over the Archieratical Divine Liturgy in the Transfiguration Chapel, assisted by Fr. Alexandros, Fr. Benedikt, and Deacon Urban. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the Greek, Swedish, English, Russian, and Finnish languages.
In his sermon, the Metropolitan noted that “we are gathered together today to demonstrate our unity in Christ, to join in prayer, and to draw spiritual strength for our struggles in the stadium of Great Lent.”
He went on to say that “today, we commemorate St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, who was a leading Teacher of Orthodox Doctrine, an invincible combatant of heresy, and a herald of divine Grace. The Grace of God is uncreated as an energy. We can only sense and experience uncreated grace empirically. God’s grace brings man closer to the Sacraments of the Church, but also awaits our response. Only then does it become active and bear fruit.”
Afterwards, Metropolitan Cleopas congratulated the mission clergy. “I congratulate our dearly beloved Rev. Presbyter Dr. Benedikt for his extensive publications in Swedish as an author and translator, thanks to which the work of the Orthodox Church Fathers is becoming widely known in this hospitable land of the Kingdom of Sweden.”
The Metropolitan added that “together with the Rev. Deacon Urban, you are called to respond to the contemporary demands of our role as clergymen.”
Commenting on the chapel’s iconography, he stated that “this chapel, where we are gathered today, is adorned by Presbytera Monika’s iconography. This chapel is a gem of Orthodoxy in Northern Sweden.”
Concluding his sermon, Metropolitan Cleopas offered words of encouragement to the volunteers and parishioners. “I extend my blessings to the fine members of your Parish Council and congratulate you all on your missionary zeal, which we manifoldly support morally and financially. I await you all most joyfully at the St. George Cathedral of Stockholm, where your clergymen will concelebrate with us and the laity will join us in prayer at our liturgical gathering.”
Following the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Cleopas blessed the latest iconography on the chapel’s dome and offered the mission English-language copies of his studies on St. Nectarios of Pentapolis and Swedish-language copies of the Divine Liturgy, children’s books, the service of the Salutations to the Theotokos, and Fr. Eusevios Vittis’ work Anavaseis, courtesy of the Church of Greece’s publishing house Apostoliki Diakonia and its Director General His Excellency Metropolitan Agathangelos of Fanarion.
The Pohjanen couple presented to His Eminence an icon of Christ, painted by Presbytera Monika, and an album with her icon collection.
Also attending the Sunday liturgical gathering were representatives of the local Lutheran faith based community in Luleå Mdmes. Åsa Nyström, Charlotte Rehnman and Μaria Sundin, as well as representatives from the Municipality of Överkalix the Honorable Ms. Αnne Jacobsson and Mr. Νiclas Hökfors.
A luncheon followed at a local restaurant, and that same afternoon Metropolitan Cleopas returned to his see in Stockholm, while Fr. Alexandros left for Oslo.