By Robin Gomes
The Catholics of Estonia are dedicating Saturday to fasting and praying in preparation for the visit of Pope Francis to their capital Tallin in less than a month’s time.
The September 1 initiative is an invitation that Bishop Philippe Jourdan, the Apostolic Administrator of Estonia, made in a letter to his Catholics dated July 22.
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the three Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, September 22 to 25. He is visiting Lithuania September 22-23, Latvia September 24, and Estonia, September 25.
“Fasting and prayers go always hand in hand,” Bishop Jourdan wrote in his letter. “Therefore, I ask you also to devote at least one day to fasting with the same intention. This day could be Saturday, 1 September,” he suggested.
Recalling that the month of August has several Marian commemorations such as the feasts of Our Lady of the Snows, August 5, the Assumption, August 15, the Queenship of Mary, August 22 and the Estonian pilgrimage to St. Mary’s Chapel in Viru-Nigula on 25 August, Bishop Jourdan said, “during these days of worship of God’s Mother, I ask all of us to devote our Rosary prayers to the success of the visit of Pope Francis.”
“Pope Francis’ visit is our common undertaking depending on all of us,” the Apostolic Administrator wrote, adding, “spiritual preparation is more important than the material one.”
“These moments of praying and fasting could be our joint commitment for the preparation of Papal visit. I am sure that God will accept our prayers and will give us more fruits than we can dream of,” Bishop Jourdan wrote.
Of Estonia’s some 1.3 million population, around 7,000 are Catholics (less than 1%), who along with Lutherans and Orthodox Christians live among a population, 75% of which does not have any religious affiliation.
25 years since John Paul II
The 25th foreign trip of Pope Francis will be the first papal trip to the Baltic states in a quarter of a century. He will be the second pope to travel to the three nations, exactly 25 years after St. Pope John Paul II visited them in September 1993.