Head of the Catholic Church in Estonia on life in a secular world

Bishop Philippe Jean-Charles Jourdan appearing on an edition of ETV2's Plekktrumm talk show last year.
Bishop Philippe Jean-Charles Jourdan appearing on an edition of ETV2's Plekktrumm talk show last year. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

One of the more common statements you hear about Estonia is that it is more or less the most secular, or least religious, country in Europe. Despite this, the country has a small but active Roman Catholic populace, numbering a few thousand, also getting somewhat of a boost by Pope Francis' visit in 2018.

Bishop Philippe Jean-Charles Jourdan, head of the Catholic Church in Estonia, gave an interview to Catholic news site Crux, while in Rome.

Jourdan is only the second Catholic Bishop in Estonia after the Protestant Reformation; the first, Archbishop Eduard Profittlich, was arrested after the Soviet occupation of Estonia, and died in exile in a Gulag in Northern Russia. Jourdan noted that he was spearheading the process for Profittlich's beatification as a martyr, which he says could happen in 2022 despite a lengthy process at Rome.

While Estonia may be a largely secular nation, with religious people as a whole in a minority, and Catholics a minority within a minority, Jourdan said that particularly after Pope Francis' visit to Tallinn in September 2018, the Church is no longer quite as distant as it once had been.

Nonetheless, being a secular nation where God seems to have disappeared, in some people's eyes, Jourdan said that the key would be to engage in society and not be cloistered away from it.

However, Jourdan says he does not have all the answers: "If I had a recipe against secularization, I would have published it, and of course used it long ago," he says, drawing a parallel with the very early Christians, who often faced persecution.

The picture even then so far as Estonia goes is still not quite as black-and-white as some may think, Jourdan says.

"For instance, I was recently in Santiago de Compostela (in northwestern Spain-ed.) and was told that since the beginning of the year, hundreds of Estonians have come as pilgrims [there], the great majority of them being probably non-Catholics or non-Christians."

One example is the Archbishop Viilma of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, who himself just made a nine-day, 315-km pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (link in Estonia).

Bishop Jourdan was consecrated and installed as ordinary of Estonia on 10 September 2005 in Tallinn. He speaks fluent Estonian.

The original Crux interview is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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