Many people within Lutheran churches in Scandinavia are seeking ways to cut all formal ties linking the state with the church.

But, ironically, many of the citizens of these countries, in which Lutheran churches are the biggest denominations, are happy for church-state links to be retained.

"There is growing impatience in ecclesiastical circles, while the general population is more conservative and reserved when it comes to changing the relationship between state and church," Erling Pettersen, head of the national council of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway, told ENI.

A recent opinion poll showed that 40 percent of Norwegians favored cutting all ties between the state and the Lutheran church, a steady increase in recent years. However, 50 percent of the population still want to keep the status quo, and about 10 percent of the public have not made up their minds.

But at the Norwegian church's recent general synod almost all delegates present wanted the church to be independent of the state.

While there is full freedom of religion across Scandinavia, the dominant Lutheran churches in Sweden, Norway and Denmark have long been connected toラand hold special status withラthe state. Lutheran priests have their salary and pension guaranteed by the state, the head of state is a member of the Lutheran church, and Lutheran bishops are formally appointed by the state after nomination by the church, although in the past this recommendation has not always been respected.

But these traditional relationships are becoming more and more problematic in a society where a growing percentage of Scandinavians are not Lutherans and, in significant numbers, not even Christians.

The Lutheran Church in Norway has set up a committee to study the matter. It ...

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