Why is the Pope coming to Estonia?

Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has made clear his desire to visit countries that may seem to be at the edges or on the margins, were people are suffering or suffered special difficulties in the recent past. He wants to comfort them and to learn from them. Faithful to his word the Pope has visited countries as Myanmar or Central African Republic or Georgia. On the other hand, he has not visited yet important and traditional Catholic countries in Europe, like France or Spain, or even his native land, Argentina. The Pope’s visit will be an honour for our country.

The visit of the Pope is not an ordinary visit of a head of state. Pope Francis will be coming, first, as a shepherd. He wants to meet all the Estonian people. In a recent trip to the Caucasus (2016), the Pope explained that he went to confirm in their faith the Catholics that live there and to encourage all the inhabitants in their journey of peace and fraternity. These same words can be perfectly applied to Estonia.

As he said in the Caucasus, Estonians also have “very ancient historic, cultural and religious roots”, but at the same time they “are living in a new phase: in fact, they celebrate this year the 25th anniversary of their independence, after having spent most of the twentieth century under the Soviet regime.”

Under these circumstances, “the Catholic Church is called to be present, to be close, especially in charity and human development, and wishes to do so with the other Churches and Christian communities and in dialogue with other religious communities, with the certainty that God is the Father of all and we are all brothers and sisters.”

In fact, after 50 years of communist dictatorship, faith has seen a rebirth in Estonia, but there is still much to do. The motto of the visit “Wake up, my heart!” is taken from an Estonian spiritual hymn by Estonian composer Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962). As Bishop Philippe Jourdan explained, “When John Paul II visited the Country twenty five years ago, two years had passed since its independence and his message to our Country, as to other Countries of Eastern Europe, was: “Do not be afraid!” In those years, the Estonian State was like a sick person who had just woken up from a coma, treading with insecure steps, but with great expectations of peace, of unity with the rest of Europe, of great ideals, perhaps also of material things but with great hope. Twenty-five years later the state and the society are more stable, they have found their place in Europe and in the world, but the great ideals have somewhat fallen asleep. This can be seen also in Europe, in the ideals of the European project or in the fact that the end of the Cold War had heralded hopes of world peace that gradually waned. We saw the arrival of materialism. However, while Estonian society has reached a good level of material security, spiritual security is lacking today. That is why we need a strong voice that will tell us wake up, my heart! Wake up, my soul!”