Swedish church forced to recruit priests abroad due to shortage

A diocese in Karlstad, Sweden, has been forced to recruit pastors coming from other countries due to a shortage in the number of local priests, especially in smaller municipalities.

(REUTERS / Bob Strong)Sweden's flag is seen near the Stockholm Cathedral in Gamla Stan or the Old Town district of Stockholm, Sweden, June 9, 2010.

Speaking to public broadcaster SVT, Karlstad diocese's staff strategist Charlotte Klingestad said they have been trying to recruit priests mainly from Germany to provide a short-term solution to the clergy shortage. As a long-term strategy for the problem, the church was also working on a project designed to convince more young people to enter the vocation of priesthood, The Local relayed.

"In the short term we've worked on trying to recruit priests from other countries, specifically we've focused on Germany," Klingestad told SVT.

As of now, the diocese of Karlstad is in need of 20 priests. The shortage in the number of pastors is reportedly more pronounced in the smaller municipalities.

Vicar Thomas Pfitzinger Drewes, a priest from Germany who started serving in Sweden 16 years ago, said one of the newly recruited priests was still working in Switzerland but is excited to work in Värmland county. The vicar will host the incoming priest, who will start his assignment this summer.

The Swedish Church claims that six million out of the country's population of 10 million are its members, but that number started decreasing last year with the departure of 1.5 percent from the congregation in the wake of a corruption scandal among its officials. Also, children born to the Evangelical-Lutheran denomination were automatically listed as members until 1996.

Meanwhile, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told a local paper that priests working for the Church of Sweden should not refuse same-sex weddings. He also said midwives who refuse to participate in abortions should find another job, the Christian Broadcasting Network reported.

"Us Social Democrats work to ensure that all priests should wed all people, including same-sex couples," Löfven told local publication Kyrkans Tidning. "If you are a midwife you either have to carry out abortions, or you have to find another profession. The same goes for priests who do not want to wed homosexuals."

In addition, Löfven said the Church of Sweden should advocate for equal rights to marry regardless of their sex. The prime minister also called for a change in church law that would require all ministers to be willing to officiate same-sex weddings once they are ordained.