Estonians rally for Ukraine as Catholics pray for peace
By Devin Watkins
Around 30,000 Estonians demonstrated in Tallinn’s Freedom Square on Saturday afternoon to join their voices in support of peace, as Russia continued its military push to subdue Ukraine.
Thousands of people also gathered in Estonia’s other major cities of Tartu and Narva.
Ms. Marge-Marie Paas, the Communications Director of the Apostolic Administration of Estonia, took part in the Tallinn rally, and later spoke to Vatican News about the local Church’s support for Ukraine.
Moving show of support
The protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “deeply moving”, Ms. Paas said, adding that it started with the Ukrainian and Estonian national anthems.
She said Estonians welcomed a speech by President Alar Karvis, who urged Estonians to “open their hearts and the doors of their homes to Ukrainian refugees” and to show “compassion and caring.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted his gratitude to Estonians for their show of support for his countrymen.
He claimed it was the “largest demonstration in the modern history of Estonia” and told the Estonian president that the “vyshyvanka (a traditional embroidered Ukrainian shirt) suits you.”
Material and spiritual aid
As Ukraine bears the brunt of the Russian advance, Estonians are joining Catholics around the world in signs of spiritual and material support for Ukrainians in need.
The Estonian Red Cross has been flooded with donations of cash and household goods to be sent to Ukraine, according to ETV, Estonia’s national public broadcaster.
Ms. Paas said local Catholic parishes are “absolutely open to help refugees and support Ukrainians.”
The support goes beyond the material, added Ms. Paas. She said Estonian Catholics immediately began praying for peace in Ukraine after Russia invaded on Thursday morning.
Estonians welcome Pope’s call for day of prayer
Catholics in the “Land of Mary” are turning again to Our Lady as war shatters the peace in Europe.
They held a special Rosary on Saturday evening, and another on Sunday morning after Masses in Tallinn, to pray for peace and for the souls of those who have died in the fighting in Ukraine.
Pope Francis has called Christians around the world to take part in a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace, especially in Ukraine, on Ash Wednesday, which falls on 2 March. “I encourage believers in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war,” said the Pope at the Wednesday General Audience.
Secure in alliances
Estonia spent 50 years as a satellite state of the Soviet Union, and shares a 294-kilometer-long border with Russia. The European Union state is now a member of the NATO military alliance.
Asked whether Estonians are worried about a possible escalation in violence with Russia spilling over Ukraine’s borders, Ms. Paas affirms that Estonia’s alliances are “strong and safe”.
She said Estonians prefer to recall Pope St. John Paul words: “Do not be afraid.”