Left: Timo Soini, leader of the Finns Party (photo: http://timosoini.fi/). Right: Parliament of Finland (photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/).
Catholic Politician in the Nordic Public Square | Alberto
Carosa | CWR
An interview with Finnish politician Timo Soini, leader of the main opposition party in the Finnish parliament
Timo Soini is an interesting and somewhat unusual figure in Finland’s political establishment: a Catholic who is not hiding his Catholic faith while living in a highly secularized society, nor mincing his words whenever he needs to uphold “non-negotiable values” relating to family, marriage, and life.
the driving force behind the exceptional surge of the
(in English, the “Finns Party” or “True Finn Party”), which
he has led since 1997. During the last general elections in April
2011, the Perussuomalaiset
won 39 seats (19.1%), a dramatic increase from their previous five.
The party's platform is based on “the right” for all members of
society “to a life of human dignity”, as expressed in the English
resume of the parliament’s official website.
“We are an independent, nationally minded party that presents an alternative and serves as a counterweight to non-criticism of the EU [European Union]”, the resume goes on, “standing on a foundation of Christian-social values”. Soini is a bit more specific in his Finnish blog, stating that he needs “nobody’s permission to be pro-life” and that “marriage should only be between a man and a woman”. His party’s recent success has revolutionized Finland’s political scenario, forcing an unusual alliance between the social democrats and the traditional right-wing conservative Kokoomus National Coalition Party seeking to keep Soini to be kept out of government so the latter party can remain the leading opposition party.
As a presidential candidate for the second time in the January 2012 presidential elections, Soini received the third most votes—almost 10% of the total. The unprecedented result of this political “earthquake” was that the socialist candidate was, for the first time, out of the run-off, causing the editors of Helsingin Sanomat, the largest subscription newspaper in Finland, to declare, “Timo Soini rewrote the electoral history books.”
Timo Soini graciously granted the following interview to Catholic World Report recently.
CWR: What can you tell us about your recent visit to Rome?
Soini: I was in Rome early this year, in April, and at the Vatican for the ordination of priests. It was celebrated by Pope Francis, and I was there with the Finnish Ambassador to the Holy See, Alpo Rusi. I also met cardinals Turkson and Tauran. It was very interesting; it was a real blessing that I could take that opportunity for a series of discussions. It was my third visit to Rome. I went there with my wife; we arrived on a Saturday and the following day we went to St Peter’s Basilica for the mass celebrated by Pope Francis and then returned home on Monday. We went to see the catacombs and to the Vatican museums, and our Ambassador to the Vatican made it possible for me to meet the two cardinals and then we went to the mass. Here in Finland we are more ordinary people and it is a real sensation for us to see so much luxury in terms of paintings and artistic masterpieces. I also met a friend of mine, Oskar Juurikkala, who is in Opus Dei and is studying to become a priest.
CWR: What was your reaction at the changing of Popes?