12 July – Feast of Nathan Söderblom, Archbishop of Uppsala (Sweden) and Ecumenist, 1931


Lars Olof Jonathan Söderblom (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈnɑːtan ˈsøːdɛrblʊm]) (15 January 1866 – 12 July 1931) was a Swedish clergyman. He was born in Sweden in 1866 in a village called Trönö, today Söderhamn Municipality, Gävleborg County and attended the University of Uppsala and on returning from a journey to the U.S was ordained priest in the Church of Sweden (Lutheran) in 1893.  From 1894-1901 he served as Pastor of the Swedish Lutheran community in Paris during which time he took his doctorate in theology at the Sorbonne. He returned to Uppsala (pronounced oop- sala) to teach and lead the School of Theology at the university.  He was a highly respected scholar and teacher, prolific writer, and an early proponent of the study of comparative religions.

He was appointed Archbishop of Uppsala in 1914.  Uppsala is the primatial see of Sweden akin to Canterbury in England and its Archbishop is the primate of the Swedish Church.  Söderblom’s election was somewhat of a surprise as he was neither a bishop nor an archbishop from whose ranks the primate was usually chosen.  He served in this post until his death in 1931.

Archbishop Söderblom took great interest in the early liturgical renewal movement among Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans.  This coincided with his deep commitment to the unity of the churches of Christ and his passion for ecumenical advancement.  In 1925 he invited Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran and Orthodox leaders to Stockholm and together they formed the Universal Christian Council on Life and Work. Because of his efforts and his tireless advocacy of Christian unity Söderblom is numbered among the ecumenists whose efforts led eventually to the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948. He was a close friend and ecumenical ally of Bishop George Bell who was a major voice I the Church of England during the Second World War and a major figure on the ecumenical stage during the post-war era.   This advocacy for Church unity as a means toward to accomplishing world peace earned Söderblom the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930.

Archbishop Söderblom saw a profound connection between liturgical worship, personal prayer, and social justice.  A rich cohesion of these elements was, in his mind, the foundation of a Christian commitment well lived.

Taken from Holy Women, Holy Men and supplemented with selections from Wikipedia.


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