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2.53 How did the Catholic Church return to Denmark?

The Church in the twentieth century

After the Lutheran Reformation in Denmark in 1536 it became prohibited to be a Catholic. But from the mid-1600s onwards some small Catholic congregations were allowed around the embassies of Catholic countries as well as in the Danish town of Fredericia, where freedom of practice of any religion was permitted as an attempt to attract newcomers to populate the town.

Denmark gained full freedom of religion with the constitution of 1849 and in the following decades the number of Catholics slowly grew from 2000 to 10,000 by 1900. In the beginning most Catholics, including the priests and religious, were foreigners, mostly from Germany, France and Poland. With time Danish converts also became part of the congregations.

The first Catholic bishop born in Denmark after the Reformation was Theodor Suhr (bishop from 1939-1965). He also took part in the Second Vatican Council in Rome (1962-1965), and his successor, Hans Ludvig Martensen, implemented the Vatican II reforms in Denmark. Today there are around 45,000 registered Catholics in Denmark.

The Catholic Church is the second largest Christian community in Denmark, after the Lutheran State Church. Its members of many nationalities reflect the Church's universality.