USF Honors Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Bondevik

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This year’s honorary degree recipient Kjell Bondevik sat down with the Foghorn for an interview regarding his humanitarian efforts.  Photo by Laura Plantholt/Foghorn
This year’s honorary degree recipient Kjell Bondevik sat down with the Foghorn for an interview regarding his humanitarian efforts. Photo by Laura Plantholt/Foghorn

The University of San Francisco held its annual Mass of the Holy Spirit on Wednesday, Sept. 30 in St. Ignatius Church. Residents from all over San Francisco came together on this day. But this was an especially important ceremony this year, because it honored Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former prime minister of Norway.

The Mass of the Holy Spirit is a service that brings San Francisco’s academic and non-academic community together to celebrate the spirit of humanity, or as Rev. Stephen Privett, S.J, the president of USF said, our “common humanity, which we share with all people regardless of color, income, gender, or sexual orientation.” There was a deep focus on community and duty throughout the whole proceedings.

The mass began to the sound of violin, piano and choir, filling the bright and open church and encircling its participants. Members of several USF clubs, organizations, and athletic teams attended: Not for Sale, the St. Ignatius Institute, men and women’s basketball, baseball, tennis, and soccer, to name a few. Members of these organizations were asked to place symbols of their group on the altar, giving a sense of shared interests and support to observers.

Between the inspirational songs and readings, Privett preached about the injustices of our health care and prison systems, suggesting that they “focus on punishment and revenge rather than really protecting us.” He called upon “our responsibility to open the eyes of those blinded by nationalism, racism, etc.” and to “gather as one.” Privett’s speech touched on unity, because, he said, we are all of the same brotherhood/family, we must care for our weak, our sick and dying, our poor, and victims of injustice. The Jesuit mission and values were prominently portrayed in every significance of the mass.

It is because of his embodiment of this spirit that Bondevik received an honorary Doctor of Humane letters from the university. Privett spoke of him as one “who is clearly filled with God’s spirit, he is a peacemaker and a champion of human rights.” During his term as prime minister of Norway, Bondevik increased programs for health care and education. He also created a prosperous economy while focusing on protecting the environment.

In addition, Bondevik is highly commended for his actions to reduce the stigma of mental illness. He addressed publicly his own needs to take a leave of absence for depression, and argued to British Parliament that “mental illness should not be any more mysterious than a physical illness and that it is possible to recover.” Outside of his political career, he has promoted human rights, democracy, and inter-religious and intellectual dialogue by establishing the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights. He is involved in several global campaigns against social injustices.

As president of this organization, he traveled to China recently, to urge them to end the human rights violations in Burma. Bondevik also pledges humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Iraq. Privett said because of this commitment to “pursuing a global common good and for his capacity to integrate faith and reason in a life devoted to fashioning a more humane and just world for all” that USF honored Kjell Magne Bondevik with this degree.

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