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HomeGovernance and SocietyCatholic Church discontinues Franciscan Order in Faroe over red tape issues

Catholic Church discontinues Franciscan Order in Faroe over red tape issues

Citing “difficulties in receiving visa,” the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, commonly known as the Franciscan Sisters, have announced that they will cease their activities in the Faroe Islands after 92 years of service in the country.

“We regretfully inform the Faroese of a decision that has been made concerning the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Tórshavn,” a public announcement from the Franciscan Sisters read. “It is with sadness that we have chosen to dismantle the Franciscan Order to which we have been so closely associated. It has had great importance for us. However the congregation has grown and has been frequently visited including by Faroese people in our presence since 1931.”

“Even today the congregation in Tórshavn works in close liason and service with the call of the church,” the announcement continued. “However the geographical distance to the region of activity is challenging and difficulties in receiving visa are forcing us to make troublesome decisions. Thus we have to acknowledge our lack of energy to run the organization subsequent to June 1st 2024.”

Signed by Sister Laetitua Chevallier, the statement added: “It is with sorrow and deep regret that we inform you of the decision which has been made by the Catholic Bishop in Copenhagen and the Catholic organization in the Faroe Islands. Rest assured that we will keep you the Faroese in our prayers and thoughts in the time that lies ahead. You are all faced with times of change—the Sisters and their connections in the Faroes.”

The nuns came to the islands 92 years ago in response to an appeal to help the Faroese people and to re-establish the presence of the Catholic Church here, according to the website of the Catholic Church in the Faroes.

Over the years they have established a highly popular public school alongside a kindergarten and nursery, and served the needs of a small Catholic community which gradually formed. Today, five of the nuns remain, of Flemish, Maltese, Irish, Sri Lankan and Korean ethnicities, ages ranging from late 30s to 80s.

‘A certain embarrassment’

Meanwhile, as per The Pillar, an international media outlet, the Catholic community in the Faroes “is facing an uncertain future following the departure of its resident priest, partly due to the strict conditions imposed on foreign ‘religious workers’.” 

Under the heading “Red tape deprives Faroe Islands of resident Catholic priest,” an article in The Pillar dated September 1st discussed the case of Msgr. Peter Fleetwood, a priest of England’s Liverpool archdiocese, who had served the Faroese community since October 2020.

“The main reason I decided to ask my Archbishop in Liverpool if I could leave is the Danish law on foreign religious workers,” Fleetwood was quoted as saying.

“I hardly ever saw my passport in the years I was living in the Faroes, because every time I needed to leave, I had to fill in a form requesting a re-entry permit, and they asked me to make that request at least a month in advance of my planned departure.”

“Twice, the permission had not been granted, and I was on tenterhooks until literally five minutes before the police station closed, when an email mysteriously appeared granting me permission to re-enter the Faroes.”

“I need to tell you that the police service is Danish, and the law on foreign religious workers is Danish, too,” Msgr. Fleetwood added. “The women in the police station were extremely polite and kind, and Faroese. I think I detected a certain embarrassment that they had to treat an aging Englishman as a potential threat to the security of the Kingdom of Denmark.”

As The Pillar noted, Catholics on the islands belonged to the Diocese of the Faroe Islands for an almost 500-year period up to the Reformation; however in modern times, they are part of the Catholic Diocese of Copenhagen, Denmark.

 

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