Norwegians turned to their churches Saturday to try to find comfort in the aftermath of twin attacks that took the lives of at least 92 people, many of them teenagers, and left citizens of this typically calm Scandinavian country in disbelief.
Bishop Laila Riksaasen Dahl of the Church of Norway diocese in Tunsberg, along with other clergy, met with survivors and relatives of those slain when a gunman went on a rampage at a youth camp on Utoya Island.
Riksaasen Dahl told the Norwegian daily Aftenposten that many of the young people had seen close friends gunned down, or had themselves been victims of the shooting.
“The scope of this nightmarish story is so unbelievable,” Riksaasen Dahl told the paper. She was among clergy who planned to hold a church service Sunday for survivors of the massacre and relatives of those who died.
Churches across the country planned to remain open all day Saturday to offer prayers and comfort, Riksaasen Dahl said. Some prayer services were broadcast live over Norwegian radio Saturday.
“This is a national tragedy that has hit the country,” Riksaasen Dahl added. “Every death notice is tragic, but when there are so many who are affected, it’s overwhelming to take in.”
“We pray for all those affected and for all who now might be anxious or restless about what might have happened to their loved ones,” Helga Haugland Byfuglien, another leading bishop in the Church of Norway, told Aftenposten. She added that it was particularly difficult to comprehend the massacre of happy young people attending summer camp.
“Summer camp is where young people gather for fellowship and fun, development?. discussion, experience and love,” the bishop told the newspaper. “That’s where life unfolds and democracy is taking shape.”