On Friday, September 22, Bishop Teemu Sippo gave us his vew on the finances of the Diocese of Helsinki. Later the same day, the Vicar General, Father Raimo Goyarrola, shared his thoughts on the situation in the Diocese, using the image of a hospital to illustrate the Diocese.
Below you will find an English rendering of the Vicar General's thoughts on Stella Maris and salaries for priests.
Thoughts on the Situation in the Diocese of Helsinki
Pope Francis has frequently likened the Church to a hospital.
Even though it seems contradictory, the reality is that there are more healthy people than patients in a hospital: doctors, nurses, janitorial staff, administrators etc. Thanks be to God, the health of our Diocese is very good. All of us Catholics in Finland – lay people, religious and priests – want to be faithful to Jesus Christ and spread the Gospel.
In the past few days, some necessary decisions have been made to implement improvements in the Diocese. At this time, I would like to focus on two of them.
The first concerns the Diocesan centre Stella Maris and its partial demolition. The situation at and fate of Stella Maris has been considered before, in the magazine Fides and on the website of the Diocese. In medical terms, this hospital that is the Diocese is bleeding continuously and we must stop this: the finances of Stella Maris are a constant haemorrhage in the Diocesan budget.
The first thing you need to do with a patient who is bleeding, is to close the wound as quickly as possible. If in addition to haemorrhage there is an infection, there is no time to spare. Stella Maris fills the criteria for such rapid action. We are not giving up on the patient, but trying to heal her. The aim is to return to normal life when the haemorrhage has been stopped and the infection treated. We aim to do this through the tearing down of some of the buildings, which will be done soon. The aim is to return the patient to full health: to improve safety and save money. In the future, if we can secure financial assistance, a new Stella Maris will be built, a place where Jesus, Our Lady and all of us who are her children can be happy.
Tearing the place down is sad, but it remains the sensible treatment option to secure healing. For this reason, we must see it as a positive thing. We are not abandoning the patient, but giving her a chance to heal. This is a time-consuming process and in the case of Stella Maris it will require a great deal of patience as well as money.
The second decision is about salaries for priests. There is no hospital where the physicians and nurses are not remunerated for the work that they do. Priests are spiritual physicians. Yes, their work is a calling, but so is the work of doctors and many other jobs. St Paul reminds Timothy that those who work deserve their pay. The work of a priest is professional work. This means that a priest is a citizen like others and that he has the same rights and responsibilities as other people. A priest deserves to have health insurance and a pension. We live and work in Finnish society.
Up until now, Finland has been an anomaly compared to the other Nordic countries. It is time we become like the others. These new measures give me cause for optimism, as they show that the Catholic Church in Finland has grown a lot and is continuing to grow, both in numbers and in a geographical sense. This growth requires us to adopt a new way of thinking and a new attitude. The decisions explained in this column are signs of evolution and maturity. They show that we are growing healthily.
Let us pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and ask ourselves how each one of us can continue to contribute to the Diocese's growth, with the help of God's grace.