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Ecumenical Center & Chapel of Sts. Peter and Paul



When entering the house next to the church, one can see on the wall a coat of arms, in which, on a white background, a black lion stands on a mill-wheel of the same color.

In heraldry the lion is a symbol for Christ. In our coat of arms we want to express that it is Christ who keeps the mill-wheel turning.

"MYLLYJARVI" (Mill-lake).


After two years of searching, in the summer of 1963 a place was found north of Lake Bodom in northern Espoo, which was bought with the money I had received for translating three doctors' thesis. The young architect Klaus Scheid, who had been in Finland for three years, offered to design the church and chapel and continued to help during the building activities, all in the spirit of 'talkoo' volunteer work.

The work was started on September 5, 1963 by six young volunteers from Holland, members of the Catholic workers' youth association, and my brother's twin daughters, who cooked, washed and, in their free time, helped with building. Many of our friends came to help and a much appreciated member of this group was 'rakennusmestari' (master builder) Valkeakoski from Rekola, the village where I lived in 1943–63.

The second group of skilled craftsmen came from Austria and the third group was from Germany, the so-called Kolpinggesellen.

On September 2, 1964, the centre was inaugurated. The house was blessed by Mgr. de Vet, bishop of Breda, Holland, and the church by Mgr. Cobben. Mgr. Verschuren assisted as a nominated but not yet ordained bishop. Two bishops from the Lutheran church, Mgr. Elis Gulin from Tampere and Mgr. K.E. Forsell from Porvoo, assisted and an Orthodox choir sang.

Father Theodor Rohner and I started the activities hoping that we could be of some help for the ecumenical movement in Finland.

From January to December 1965 we counted 5000 visitors, and the number has increased so that today we receive some 10–12,000 visitors a year: groups from parishes, organizations, schools, people coming to study icon painting or participate in the Sunday service.

In 1971, Father Theodor left for Brazil. For many years, the centre received great help from Father Guy Barbier who helped with the Sunday services while being mainly occupied with the Emmaus activities in Helsinki.

Since 1969, the centre has received great help from Miss Sirkku Lehtinen who tends to the cooking, washing, cleaning and especially the garden, which has a highly-appreciated production. She is also a talented icon-painter and assisted at many icon-painting courses in Finland and Sweden. Her icons were seen at many exhibitions.

Activities — Promoting Ecumenism

The basic activity of the Centre in the field of ecumenism is certainly the Services in our church. The fact that we can pray together, especially during Holy Mass, gives us the possibility to live as one community united in Jesus Christ.

As the second activity of the centre I would indicate the ecumenical spirit of the centre, where everybody is welcome and accepted as a sister or brother, and where everybody's opinion is appreciated and everybody can speak freely. Discussions are held in a reciprocal spirit of esteem.

 patronal icon of Sts Peter and Paul by Fr Robert de Caluwe                  

As a third activity, I would like to point out that in our centre we try as much as possible to eliminate prejudices and false opinions from which we all suffer and which are very often an obstacle on the way towards ecumenism.

Against Prejudices

Allow me to indicate one of these prejudices which in Finland was rather common, especially during and after World War II.  Rather often we had to correct the expression "Russian church" when there was talk about the Orthodox church. Due to historical circumstances, when Finland became a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire in 1809, Russian troops came to many towns along with Orthodox clergy and churches.

Our centre has pointed out to those who use this false nomination of  "Russian church" that there were and are also Orthodox churches in many other countries, such as Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, the United States, Canada and so on.

Another continuing prejudice is that our visitors think that they are baptized as Lutheran, Orthodox, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist and so fortli. We try to correct them that there is no Orthodox, Lutheran or whatsoever baptism, once we are baptized into Christ.

When Apostle Paul heard that the Galatians (meaning the Celts) were of different opinion about baptism, he wrote to them (Gal. 3:27-28): "For as many of you have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

And when St Paul comes to Ephesus, he asks the Christians (Acts 19:24): "Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? And they said to him: 'We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit.'And he said to them: "Unto what then where you baptized?" And they said: 'Into John's baptism.'Then said Paul:  'John verily baptized with the baptism or repentance..' When they heard this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."

Essential vs. Incidental

Another way in which we try to help our visitors is to point out what is essential in our contact with God and what is accidential.

For instance, for an Orthodox Christian it is important to stand in front of an icon when praying. He or she makes the sign of the cross with tree outstretched fingers (a symbol of the Holy Trinity), an old-believer does it with two outstretched fingers (a symbol of Christ in His two natures). A Catholic makes the sign of the cross with five outstretched fingers (a symbol of the five wounds of Christ: hands, feet and side), while a Lutheran Christian folds his or her hands. One can pray standing, kneeling or lying down (in bed, for instance).

All these are accidental forms of prayer: the essential is prayer itself, having contact with God, an in this we, Christians, are ecumenically one. In the accidental features of prayer we should be tolerant, with great esteem toward old traditions.

In this line we are convinced that the fact that in our church liturgical services are held in the Byzantine rite can be a help for ecumenism, even if many, amongst both Orthodox and Catholics, have different opinions.

Diversity in the Catholic Church

Through our services we show that the Catholic church is universal and has alongside the Roman rite other rites as well: Coptic, Syrian, Armenian, Chaldean, Malabar, Rumanian, Georgian, Maronite, Greek Catholic and Melchite.

Through this fact we can show our Catholics that these Catholics of the Byzantine rite in southern Italy and Sicily, the Ukraine, Hungary and Rumania, are also real Catholics, as are the Chaldean immigrants in Finland who belong to the Catholic Church.

We can also point out that, for instance, celibacy of Catholic priests counts only for those of the Latin (Roman) rite and that the Catholic Church of the Oriental rite has married men as priests.

That this is not always comfortable for the Catholics of the Roman rite is shown in a report of the activities of his diocese written by a Catholic bishop in Scandinavia: "We have even now in our diocese two Maronite priests, married and with children quite a problem!"


As a common and fundamental feature of our Centre's activity, I would like to point out that charity is the cornerstone on which our centre is built: charity towards everybody, because we are all children of the same God, and we are all, through baptism, united in Jesus Christ.

Friends of the Centre

We are very happy to announce that a group of "Friends of the Centre" is now helping in the centre's activities. Their choir gives a real and highly devotional degree to the liturgical service; they organize meetings, Christmas activities for families in the surrounding area, and repair the church when and where needed.

Education in Icon Painting

One of the activities which began in 1962 in Rekoli is the icon painting school. Since the centre's inauguration in 1964, the school has constantly given many pupils an opportunity to learn icon painting in the original eggtempera technique.

As the great majority of the pupils do not belong to the Orthodox church, the ecumenical side of this school lies in the fact that, along with the painting techniques the icon's historical, liturgical and devotional background are also explained.

Many a student has come to the conclusion that, along with the elimination of prejudices, a positive comprehension of the icon's role in the devotional life of both the Orthodox church and its members has widened his or her "ecumenical" horizon".

The fact that icon painting started when the Eastern and Western part of the church were one can be a starting point to many a student to become interested in the roots of our common church. (View two more icons written by Fr Robert — of St John the Baptist and The Deesis).  And to realize that the many divisions of that one church were often caused by political, social and cultural factors which in the hands of power-mad people were often a reason for — and a result of — division.

Copyright © 2000-2004 St. Michael’s Chapel Association, Inc.
Last modified on Sunday October 31, 2004 at 1:22 AM EST