A home away from home


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The new Norwegian Church in Rio de Janeiro, Princess Ragnhild´s Church, was inaugurated on May 3, 2014.

Photo courtesy of Sigrid TorbjørnsenPhoto courtesy of Sigrid TorbjørnsenIt was the three granddaughters of the late princess, Victoria Lorentzen Ribeiro (25), Sophia Anne Lorentzen (19) and Alexandra Lorentzen Long (6), that had the honor of cutting the red ribbon – and formally opening the Norwegian Church in Rio de Janeiro on May 3, 2014. According  to chaplain Ørnulf Steen, the inauguration marks an important milestone in the history of the Norwegian Church in Brazil.

«We have been talking about this house for so long, and today we are very happy that the opening day is finally here. It makes me even happier that so many people are present here today, because this is what really matters to the church. It is not about the house itself, but about the people who come here and fill the house with life. I hope the church will become a meeting-place for Norwegians in Rio and I hope that they will feel at home here. I also hope that young people and children will come here to play football or play in the pool, and that we can hold church services on a regular basis here and represent something meaningful in the lives of the people that frequent the house», chaplain Ørnulf Steen says.

The Norwegian Church discovered the lovely house in Rua Caio Mario in Gavea in January last year, and the contract to buy the property was signed in May 2013. The refurbishment work started in June, and the first floor of the house is now fully functional, with a modern kitchen, a big room for church services and other events and even a comfortable library.

Close relations
The church is named after Princess Ragnhild, Mrs. Lorentzen who had a lifelong relationship to the Norwegian church in Brazil. She always showed a great concern for the wellbeing of Norwegians in Brazil, and it was an emotional Erling Lorentzen who addressed the many people present at the inauguration on May 3.

Mr. Erling Lorentzen.Mr. Erling Lorentzen.«It is a great honor for me to be present there today. When we came here 60 years ago, there was a Scandinavian church here in Rio, and the contact with the church was important to us. It is a great pleasure, also to me personally, that you now have this house, this home, here in Rio. All I can say is thank you very much, and I would like to thank all of those involved in the process», Mr. Lorentzen said in his address.

His son Haakon and several other members of the Lorentzen family were also present at the inauguration. Representatives from the Norwegian business community participated, and manye were accompanied by their families.

«The church represents something familiar to us Norwegians, a home for those who are far away from home, and it is important to have a place you can go when you miss your family, the snow or maybe your pressure washer. I thank you all on behalf of the Norwegian business community in Rio de Janeiro», NBCC president Halvard Idland said in his greeting during the ceremony. He also told a story about his first meeting with a former chaplain of the Norwegian Church a few years ago, and how the church has this ability to make you feel at home, and even provides en environment where you can talk about whatever is on your mind, like a colleague of Mr. Idland did when he admitted to the chaplain that even though he liked living in Brazil, he really missed his pressure washer.

Mr. Erling Lorentzen (to the left) with ambassador Aud Marit Wiig and NBCC president Halvard Idland.Mr. Erling Lorentzen (to the left) with ambassador Aud Marit Wiig and NBCC president Halvard Idland.NBCC will actually co-host one of the very first events at the new church on May 15, when the chamber and the Consulate General is organizing a seminar in commemoration of the Norwegian constitution day on May 17 and the Bicentenary of the Norwegian constitution this year. After a typical Norwegian breakfast, Joaquim Falcão from the Fundação Getúlio Vargas will talk about the Brazilian Constitution, while ambassador Aud Marit Wiig will talk about the Norwegian constitution. On May 17, a big family celebration will take place at the church.

According to chaplain Ørnulf Steen, the feedback from the business community has been great throughout the whole process, and he encourages the Norwegian companies to use the church facilities diligently in the future.

«11 companies have donated a total of 2,5 million NOK for the acquisition and refurbishment of the house. We would like to see Norwegian companies using the facilities we have here for meetings and seminars, and this way contributing to the daily operations and running of the house. This is certainly a unique and very pleasant venue, quite different from what a hotel in Copacabana or Ipanema can offer. We have several meeting rooms, wifi and of course Norwegian waffles. We can help with catering and I´m convinced that we can offer something that Norwegian companies are going to find interesting.»

Family day at Princess Ragnhild´s Church on May 4, 2014.Family day at Princess Ragnhild´s Church on May 4, 2014.Long-term
Aud Marit Wiig, Norway´s ambassador to Brazil, calls the new church a home away from home, and hopes many Norwegians will find their way here.

«The fact that the Norwegian church has bought a house like this, says a lot about the significance of the Norwegian community in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. It shows that there is a long-term focus on Brazil in the Norwegian private sector and among companies established here, and both the embassy and the Norwegian Church expect this to continue.», she said.

Mrs. Wiig also brought a greeting from the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Børge Brende.

«Brazil and Norway have close relations and long traditions. Norwegian investments in the Brazilian oil and gas sector are substantial. It is important to have a meeting place, and the Norwegian Church Abroad is a great support to Norwegians abroad», Mr. Brende said in his greeting.

Secretary-general of the Norwegian Church abroad, Mr. Jan O. Johannessen, was also present at the inauguration this first Saturday in May, and he formally received the key to the house from Kjell Eirik Johnsen, leader of the refurbishment committee.

«This is a fantastic day, and I am very grateful to all of you that have been working so hard on this project. This is the 7th Norwegian church abroad with a royal name», he said before handing the key over to Cintia Overvåg, the president of the Norwegian Church Abroad, Sjømannskirken, in Rio de Janeiro.

«Let´s make this house our home so far away from home», Mr. Johannessen said.

 By Runa Hestmann, NBCC journalist

Photo courtesy of RH, Sjømannskirken/Linn M. Skogheim and Sigrid Torbjørnsen