Q: You were 20 years old when you converted to Catholicism. What brought about your conversion?
A: In my childhood, I had contact with several Catholics. I wanted to find out about their faith. After a year and a half of religious instruction, I could finally say with joy, “Truth has been given to me through the Catholic faith.”
Q: What led you to the Carmelite order? Or more specifically, to the Discalced Carmelites?
A: My first contact with Carmelite spirituality was through reading the autobiography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. I was attracted to her ideas about living in the heart of the Church and helping the Lord save souls.
Before my encounter with Thérèse, I wanted to be a diocesan priest. But Thérèse made me long to be a Carmelite and live a more contemplative life for the good of the Church and of the world. I paid a visit to the retreat-house of the Discalced Carmelites in southern Sweden and realized right away that this was where the Lord wanted me to be.
Q: The life of a Carmelite priest and a diocesan bishop are very different. How was that transition for you?
A: Actually, the inner difference was not so overwhelming. As a Carmelite, you try to do the will of God – just as you do as a bishop. Of course, many new tasks and engagements were given to me, but the contemplative life is a good preparation to cope with the various issues and problems of a bishop. Somehow, you put distance between yourself and petty things, and you can really concentrate on the essentials – like God.
Q: What unique qualities does the Swedish Church bring to the universal Church?
A: The Catholic Church in Sweden is not all that unique. We have faithful from countries throughout the world. So hopefully we can show that it is possible to live together as one family with the same hope, faith and charity. Just as many Swedes feel that their country has a special capacity to promote peace and reconciliation between various groups and ideologies, the Catholics of Sweden feel something similar.
The promotion of responsibility for woman in Church and society also is an important issue. Because there is no real longing for female priests among Catholics, we can concentrate upon the real possibilities for women. We have seen the tragedy of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, where there have been female ministers since 1958. Since then, a fierce conflict has raged between those in favor of female ministers and those in opposition.
Q: What role do the Stockholm youth play in the Church?
A: The youth are simultaneously our hope and pride – and our deep concern and grief. I am always impressed to see how young Catholics can be so firm in their faith and give witness to it in a wonderful way. But also I realize – and this is my great sorrow – that most young people disappear from our parishes. We try to find ways to the heart of the youth and give them responsibilities on various levels.