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Letter from Nidaros Cathedral, Norway: the Viking raid on Lindisfarne

To the Holy Island Church of St Mary’s.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

It is with a deep sense of humility we address you today on behalf of the Church of Norway in the year of our Lord, 1993, twelve hundred years after the assault by the Vikings on the Monastery of Lindisfarne in 793. 

In Norwegian history the sacking of Lindisfarne is considered to be the beginning of the Viking period. As we well know, towns and sanctuaries were ravaged all over Europe the following two and a half centuries.

In return, our forefathers met Christianity on their travels. Equally important, missionaries from the British Isles risked their lives by traveling to the Nordic countries to preach the gospel.

After the death of King Olaf Haraldsson at the battle of Stiklestad on 29th July 1030, and his subsequent canonization as a saint of Christendon, the raids of the Vikings ended.

In the picture here above, from Nidaros Cathedral, St. Olaf is depicted with the lily of peace in his hand while his foot represses the power of belligerance. A replica of the head of this Olaf sculpture is given today to the Holy Island Church of St Mary’s from the parish of Nidaros Cathedral.

Nidaros Cathedral, where St. Olaf is buried, was a major goal for pilgrims throughout the Middle Ages. The picture above shows pilgrims making their way towards St. Olaf.

Pilgrimage is said to be the move towards a sanctuary with the openness to be changed in spirit and to search for new values. In the spirit of pilgrimage we approach today our Christian origins in England.

We commemorate the event of 793 and the sacrifices of the monks of Lindisfarne with contrite hearts. We honour the memory of St. Cuthbert, prior and bishop of Lindisfarne, and greet you in thanksgiving for the Chirstian heritage we were given to share.

We are united in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Together we stand today, facing the spiritual and ethical challenges of our time.

May our common memories of the past help us in this last part of the second millenium to walk the paths of the Lord into the future.

Presented in the setting of holy worship on 18th July 1993.

Signed by: Finn Wagle, Bishop of Nidaros, and Sven Oppegaard, Dean of Nidaros Cathedral

Our political, personal, and community lives cannot be separated. We urge those who are leading us through these troubled and troubling times to listen, to think, to act with compassion and wisdom. 

The common good is the responsibility of us all. We urge all leaders to walk around in the shoes of ‘the other’ and to see beyond binary divides. We do not need to argue crudely across the room, aisle, dispatch box or ballot box. We call all in leadership to create a culture of conversation that places civility at the heart of our civics. We call for a culture that nurtures an intentional process of respectful, robust disagreement particularly in times of polarisation. The contemporary challenge for us all is to maintain the dignity of the human person in our personal and public discourse. 

On 31st October over 180 people representing more than 20 peace and reconciliation agencies across the UK will be meeting in Glasgow for three days. We are working together closely as Reconcilers Together, and join with local partners for the Gathering in Glasgow on Conflict and Faith in the belief that faith communities have wisdom, skill and experience to share in the art of peacebuilding, robust conversation, and the compassionate transformation of society. We recognise that violence has been, and still is perpetrated in the name of religion worldwide. We are ashamed of this legacy and will continue to do all in our power to reveal injustice and violence where we see it, while working towards reconciliation. 

We recognise that 31st October symbolises a day of concern for many whatever side of the political divide. We do not believe it is a coincidence that we have been planning for the last year to meet over this period. In the face of all that separates us, we call on our leaders: political, business, academic, civic and religious, to model robust and compassionate conversation that respects difference and welcomes diversity in the lead up to and beyond 31st October. 

Ruth Harvey, Director, Place for Hope; Sarah Hills, Vicar of Holy Island, Director, Honorary Canon for Reconciliation, Inverness Cathedral and Canon Emeritus, Coventry Cathedral; Jo Williams/Andy Williams, Directors, Blackley Centre for Peace Bridge Builders Ministries; Colin Moulds, Bridge Builders Ministries; Graham Boyack, Director, Scottish Mediation; Justine Huxley, Director, St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace; Sarah Snyder, Director, Rose Castle Foundation; Glenn Jordan, Programme Manager, Public Theology, the Corrymeela Community; Sam Tedcastle/Abdul Rahim  Senior Practitioners, Centre for Good Relations; George Cowie, Clerk to the Church of Scotland Presbytery of Glasgow.

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