Among the recent positive developments of Catholicism in the Northern countries, Deacon Anders Hamberg was ordained a priest on Saturday, June 7th, as only the sixth Finnish-born Catholic priest since the Reformation. The ordination took place in Saint Henry’s Cathedral in Helsinki, in both Swedish, the mother tongue of Fr. Hamberg, and Latin, and was celebrated by the Bishop of Helsinki, Msgr. Teemu Sippo S.C.I. Father Hamberg had been ordained a deacon by Bishop Sippo on September 28, 2013, again in Saint Henry’s Cathedral.
I was well aware of this and other developments in Finnish Catholicism, including the opening of its first Catholic church last May in Kuopio, the capital of the Savo region in central Finland. But what I was not aware of until recently was that the newly ordained priest, Father Hamberg, would celebrate his first Mass on the day following his ordination, June 8, Pentecost Sunday, in the old rite—as a Missa Cantata according to the Missale Romanum of 1962. And that celebration also took place in the cathedral in Helsinki, with the blessing of Bishop Sippo. A Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is already celebrated in the cathedral at least once a month, whenever a priest is available.
It ought to be kept in mind that this celebration is a direct result of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which in 2007 liberalized the celebration of the old Latin rite (that traditional liturgy being called a “treasure for the Church” by Pope Francis), as well as his decision to establish in 2008 a personal parish church in Rome specifically for the tradition-minded community in the Eternal City. This church, Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini (Most Holy Trinity of Pilgrims), is operated by the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). It is located in the old city center right across the Tiber in an area facing the world-renowned ancient district of Trastevere (lit. “across the Tiber”), and was originally inspired, built, and directed by St. Philip Neri to accommodate the pilgrims flocking to the city.
If its specific mission was to “bring back the faithful to a real and zealous practice of the faith through liturgy, processions, devotions,” as it says on the church’s website, then it remains all the more relevant today under the aegis of the FSSP, which seeks to revive those practices which have fallen into oblivion and/or were all too hastily sidelined, the old rite in Latin first and foremost.
Thus the ordination of June 7 and the subsequent celebration of Father Hamberg’s first Mass on June 8 may well be seen as a fruit of this mission. In fact, a few years ago I met for the first time Anders Hamberg, when he was studying in Rome as a seminarian, during a function at the nearby Casa di Santa Brigida, the headquarters of the Bridgettine Order. On that occasion, I was stunned to hear from the seminarian that he used to go to the church of Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini on Sundays, as I did. But we hadn’t met before for the simple reason that we were going to different Masses.
The fact that Father Hamberg’s mother tongue is Swedish is a further asset, in the sense that this puts him in the position to cater to the spiritual needs of both the Finnish and Swedish-speaking communities. In fact it already seems that he will continue to give pastoral and liturgical care to both of these groups in the Diocese of Helsinki.
Meanwhile, his most immediate commitment was to co-ordinate the yearly traditional summer pilgrimage to Köyliö on June 15. Köyliö is a small island in a lake in south-western Finland and the place where, according to tradition, Saint Henry, the patron saint of Helsinki cathedral, the diocese, and all of Finland, was martyred around the middle of the 12th century.