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State funeral held for Harri Holkeri

Former Prime Minister Harri Holkeri’s state funeral was held on Saturday at Helsinki Cathedral. It was attended by three current and former Finnish presidents, and led by Lutheran Bishop Emeritus Eero Huovinen.

Eero Huovinen laskee hiekkaa Harri Holkerin arkun päälle.
Harri Holkerin siunauksen toimitti emerituspiispa Eero Huovinen. Image: YLE

Holkeri was both a patriotic and an international man, according to Huovinen, whose life was directed by a strong sense of duty.

“His own country and the world were one and the same area of responsibility,” said Huovinen.

Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen described Holkeri as a forthright man who was at his best when faced with difficulties. Katainen reminded mourners of Holkeri’s rise to head the National Coalition Party at the start of the 1970s.

Holkeri was, at just 34 years of age, the youngest leader of any conservative party in Europe, because there were no alternative candidates. Holkeri led the party from 1971 to 1979, and was Finnish Prime Minister from 1987 to 1991.

An ideological reformer and an honest peace-builder

His predecessor as National Coalition leader was Juha Rihtniemi, whose daughter Suvi Rihtniemi spoke at the memorial service at the House of the Estates following the cathedral service.

She recalled her father’s ideological discussions with Holkeri in the 1960s, which she believes began the shift for the National Coalition to become the modern centre-right party it is today.

Former President Martti Ahtisaari based his speech on Holkeri’s significance to Finnish society.

“Finns knew Harri Holkeri above all as a builder of reconciliation,” said Ahtisaari.

His term leading UNMIK, the United Nations mission to Kosovo, was a fateful assignment that Holkeri took on despite knowing the gravity of the task, according to Ahtisaari. He continued to describe his friend Holkeri as an uncompromisingly honest peace-builder and a worthy role model.

Ex-PM Harri Holkeri dies at 74

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