By Devin Watkins
Estonia is the worst-hit of the three Baltic States. Although the situation is not as bad as in some other European nations, as of Monday there were 1,535 confirmed cases and 40 coronavirus-related deaths.
One Estonian island has had it particularly rough. A large proportion of the inhabitants of Saaremaa have caught the virus, accounting for over half of all hospitalized patients.
In response to the crisis, the Apostolic Administrator of Estonia consecrated the nation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Sunday.
Bishop Philippe Jourdan told Vatican Radio that the purpose was two-fold: to pray for an end to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to help people turn these trying times into an opportunity for personal conversion.
“We believe that God doesn’t want bad things to happen to us, but we use them also for personal conversion,” he said.
The consecration took place on Divine Mercy Sunday. Bishop Jourdan said devotion to the Divine Mercy is quite extensive in the Baltic nations, since several of the apparitions of Our Lord to St. Faustina Kowalska occurred in Lithuania.
Some access to Sacraments
Bishop Jourdan went on to describe the situation on the island of Saaremaa, saying life there is much different than in the rest of the country. “The island is completely isolated. Some Catholics are living there, and they are under complete lockdown.”
But, he said, people in the rest of Estonia are less constrained in their movements.
Churches are open and people are free to move around, though gatherings of more than two people are prohibited.
“At least churches are open,” said Bishop Jourdan, “so people can come pray before the Blessed Sacrament, receive Holy Communion – with all the necessary precautions – and receive the Sacrament of Confession. In a certain sense, people have the possibility to live a sacramental life.”
Bishop Jourdan said police occasionally check to make sure no religious services are being held. He added that the government has been very helpful, providing masks and other sanitary products to all churches.
For those who prefer to stay at home, all Masses are being live-streamed on the internet, as in other parts of the world.
Without public Masses, there are no collection baskets being passed around. But Bishop Jourdan said Estonian Catholics are responding well and are still making donations.
“People feel that the Church is not just an organization providing services but is their family,” he said.
The Bishop also expressed appreciation for the young people who have offered to help shut-ins by doing shopping for them.
He said this is just one sign of the extraordinary solidarity that Estonians are showing one another in this difficult time.