This morning I spoke with Archdeacon Brian Russell who is looking after St Edmund's Oslo, during the holidays of our chaplain, the Revd Janet Heil. Archdeacon Russell confirms what we have seen on news reports from afar, that yesterday's bombing in Oslo and shootings on the island of Utoya represent a loss of innocent lives that is on a scale unseen in that country since World War II. Norway has a small national population, and the killing of over 90 people will mean that almost every person and family will be touched in some way by this enormous tragedy.
This morning, on behalf of the diocese, I sent the message below to Bishop Helga Byfuglien, the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Norway, and Bishop Ole Kvarme, the Bishop of Oslo:
Dear Bishop Helga, dear Bishop Ole
On behalf of the clergy and people of the Church of England Diocese in Europe I want to send this message to express our sorrow and to convey our deepest condolences to our sisters and brothers in Norway, following yesterday’s massacre in the centre of Oslo and on the nearby island of Utoya. We are aware that there has not been such an act of violence to strike your nation since World War II, and that in a nation of just under 5 million people, a tragedy of this dimension will affect the whole population. That the gunman sought to attack the nation’s youth, gathered to think and reflect together about issues concerning the future of the country, adds to the pain of this immense tragedy.
Norway is known throughout the world as a peace-loving country, which takes leadership among the nations to protect the weak and uphold the dignity of all. At this time of national sorrow, your Anglican brothers and sisters, in Norway and across our diocese, stand with you and assure you of our prayers, for the nation, for all who have died, and for the many families and friends who are affected. We pray for God to strengthen the faith of your people at this time, and to bring comfort to a country in shock, and console all who have lost loved ones.
May God, our refuge and strength, our very present help in trouble, be with you and surround you with care and rekindle your hope.
With deep fraternal love in the Lord
I ask the faithful of the diocese to remember the people of Norway tomorrow in our Church services.
We seek your comfort and your blessing for those who mourn the dead in Norway and for all whose lives have been torn apart by this violence. We entrust those who have died in this tragedy into your loving arms. Be with your people, as the Father who stands alongside, as the Son who brings hope, as the Spirit who brings healing.