By Devin Watkins
Those Italian words, meaning “Saint now!”, were Pope Francis’ response to the introduction of the cause for canonization of Archbishop Eduard Profittlich.
The Holy Father first heard about the Servant of God during his visit to Tallinn, Estonia, on 25 September 2018. Bishop Philippe Jourdan was telling the Pope about his saintly predecessor, at the entrance to St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral, when he exclaimed his approval.
Marge-Marie Paas serves as the Postulator for Eduard Profittlich’s cause for canonization at the diocesan level.
“Eduard Profittlich would be the first blessed martyr for the Catholic Church in Estonia,” Ms. Paas told Vatican Radio in an interview. “Our Catholic community needs a protector, to whom we can pray in our everyday life and who will be our intercessor in heaven.”
The German Jesuit served as the Apostolic Administrator of Estonia from 1931 until his martyrdom in a Soviet gulag in 1942.
His cause for canonization has been approved at the diocesan level, making him a Servant of God.
Now the wheels are in motion for it to be introduced formally at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Small Catholic community
Ms. Paas is currently writing the Positio, which is a comprehensive summary of all documents regarding the candidate for sainthood. It also details the person’s life, spirituality, and martyrdom.
She said her research shows that Archbishop Profittlich was “very open and kind to the Catholic community in the 1930s. He wanted to build up a very strong Church in Estonia.”
The Church of his day was very small, according to Ms. Paas, mostly Germans, Poles, and some Russians.
“When he arrived in 1931, we didn’t have any Estonian-language prayer books. Even the Gospels were poorly translated,” she said. “He wanted to proclaim the Word of God to all Estonians.”
Strengthened Church before communism
Through 10 years of pastoral care of his flock, Archbishop Profittlich was able to build up the local Catholic community, overseeing the baptisms of many people and working closely with other Christian denominations.
The Archbishop’s hard work as pastor paid off, Ms. Paas said. “That’s why we still have a very strong Catholic community in Estonia,” despite 50 years of communist rule.
Martyrdom in the USSR
The Soviet Union occupied Estonia in June 1940, ordering the expulsion of all ethnic Germans.
Refusing to abandon his flock, Archbishop Profittlich decided to stay in Tallinn despite threats to his life.
Archbishop Profittlich was arrested on 27 June 1941 and sent to a Soviet prison camp, along with some 20,000 others. Ms. Paas said he died a martyr from exposure and starvation in Kirov prison on February 22, 1942.