Pope Francis' visit to Estonia next September will not simply be a courtesy visit and meeting with local Catholics and important politicians, but first and foremost a meeting with the Estonian people as a whole, said Apostolic Administrator of Estonia Bishop Philippe Jourdan.
"For me, the most important thing is that the pope is not coming to Estonia to play tourist or meet primarily with the government, as heads of state do; rather, he is coming here to meet with the Estonian people," Jourdan said. "This is why it is important that our society be involved in his visit and that people understand why the pope is coming to Estonia."
According to Jourdan, the pope does not just teach while visiting other countries, but also tries to learn from those countries and people he is visiting.
"When the pope recently visited Burma and Bangladesh, where a known issue is some Buddhists killing Muslims, people asked what Rome's pope has to do with that conflict," he recalled. "The pope's visit showed that his thoughts and love are for all of humanity, not a specific group."
As Estonia is one of the most unreligious countries in Europe, and the country is home to few Catholics, ERR's Anne Raiste asked what about Estonia exactly interests the pope.
"The pope wants to learn from people who have suffered in history or due to their faith — he looks up to these people and peoples," Jourdan explained. "He is sincerely interested in how Estonia regained its freedom and rebuilt its society after the end of the Soviet period. The pope likes challenges. The fact that Estonia is one of the most unreligious countries and local Catholic society is one of the smallest with which he will have met will make this a great challenge for the pope. This is something different from a visit to the Netherlands or England."
Speaking about the upcoming year, Jourdan said that the pope's visit will have special meaning due to the fact that the pope is an important figure not just in the religious world, but in the entire world as well. He recommended the people of Estonia reflect on how they can improve first themselves, then the rest of the world.
"A journalist once asked Mother Teresa, in typical journalist fashion, what should be changed in the church and in the world," the bishop recalled. "Mother Teresa answered that first one must change themselves. I also find that Christmastime should be a time when we first try to change ourselves in order for the world to change for the better."
Editor: Aili Vahtla