By Devin Watkins
The memorial to victims of Nazism and Stalinism cuts right to the heart of the tiny Catholic Church in Estonia.
The EU member state’s first Catholic bishop following the Reformation was deported to the Soviet Union in 1942. Archbishop Eduard Profittlich died in a Soviet prison in hatred of the faith, like many other Estonians.
The nation recalled those numerous victims with a solemn ceremony in the capital, Tallinn, on Sunday.
Bishop Philippe Jourdan, the Apostolic Administrator of Estonia, spoke to Vatican Radio about the Day of Remembrance.
Tributes to fallen family members
Bishop Jourdan said the ceremony took place at the new Memorial to the Victims of Communism.
The names of 22,000 Estonians are inscribed there, in tribute to their deaths during the deportations of 1940.
“For a small country like Estonia, that’s quite a lot,” said Bishop Jourdan. “In almost every Estonian family there is at least one person who died.”
The Soviet Union occupied Estonia in June 1940, and vast numbers of people were deported, many because they were ethnic Germans.
Refusing to flee
Archbishop Eduard Profittlich was one of the unfortunate ones. He had received orders from Soviet authorities to return to Germany.
But he refused to abandon his Catholic flock, and chose to stay in Tallinn, despite the obvious risks.
Archbishop Profittlich was arrested on 27 June 1941 and sent to a Soviet prison camp. He died from exposure and starvation in Kirov prison on February 22, 1942.
Bishop Jourdan noted that his predecessor’s cause for beatification is currently under review in Rome.
“I would say it is coming along at a good pace,” he said, “because we received the ‘Decree of Validity’ from the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in June.”
That means the documents which have been gathered over the past 17 years regarding the Servant of God Profittlich are sufficient and complete.
Recognizing tragic moment in history
Bishop Jourdan expressed his hopes that the Pope will one day clear the way for Profittlich’s beatification.
“It’s important for the Catholic Church here in Estonia, because he would be our first saint,” he said.
Since Archbishop Profittlich shared in the tragic fate of so many Estonians, his beatification would mean quite a lot to even secular Estonian society.
“It’s a way for the universal Church to recognize what happened here in those years,” he concluded. “It’s important for all our families that this part of our history would be recognized.”