Pope Francis is paying a one-day visit to Estonia next week, and interest in his visit is high — more than 10,000 people have registered to attend the Holy Mass to be celebrated at Tallinn's Freedom Square on Tuesday.
Last-minute preparations are underway in the courtyard of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral to ensure that everything is ready and safe ahead of the Pope's arrival, reported ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."
Tickets to the Holy Mass should be emailed to all registered attendees within the next couple of days. If anyone who registered does not receive their emailed ticket by 20 September, they are asked to contact the info desk at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral. Access to the Mass will be granted only to ticket-holders.
"Organisers have provided the opportunity for people to watch the Holy Mass from a screen to be set up near St. Nicholas' Church as well as on TV, if they have no other options, but a ticket is required to access the Papal Mass at Freedom Square," said Roman Catholic Church in Estonia spokesperson Marge-Marie Paas.
St. John's Church will also be open ahead of and during the event, where viewers can watch Mass on screen.
Registration for the event closed last week, with over 10,000 people interested in attending the Papal Mass.
"This is also the perimeter that we are able to maintain in cooperation with the police and other partners to ensure that the Holy Mass is safe and truly holy, because we are talking about the Sacred Liturgy," Paas explained.
The Pope's visit to Estonia on 25 September will be covered by hundreds of journalists. Visitors are expected to begin arriving in Estonia over the next few days, among the first of whom will be clergy and foreign members of the Missionaries of Charity, who are to meet with the Pope at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral.
The only pope to previously visit Estonia was Pope John Paul II, who visited the country on Sept. 10, 1993.
Traffic in parts of Tallinn to be heavily affected
In connection with the Pope's visit, a number of temporary traffic restrictions will affect vehicular traffic in Central Tallinn and Kadriorg on Tuesday.
According to North Prefecture law enforcement officer Sander Kullamaa, anyone traveling by car must pay close attention and watch for temporary road signs. "When Pope Francis' motorcade travels from one place to another, one can expect traffic to halt for 10-15 minutes, which may cause traffic jams," he said, adding that it would be wise to factor in extra travel time to one's destination. "Not one road will actually be closed, but parking and stopping will be restricted in specific areas. Police will be positioned at intersections to help untangle traffic jams that pop up."
For those interested in greeting the Pope's motorcade, Kullamaa recommends taking up a spot alongside Tartu Highway by 10:00 EEST. Spectators can also get a good view of the motorcade from Musumägi Hill and Tammsaare Park at around 12:45, and following the Holy Mass, the Pope and his motorcade will return to Tallinn Airport, giving those interested another chance to greet them.
Traffic will be affected in Central Tallinn and Kadriorg from 10:00-12:00, as well as when the Pope's motorcade travels from Tallinn Airport into the city and from Freedom Square back to the airport. Traffic will be closed on Kaarli Avenue and around Freedom Square from 13:00-19:00. Traffic will likewise be restricted on Komandandi Road. Traffic from Endla Street will be redirected to Suur-Ameerika Street and Toompuiestee toward Tõnismäe. Traffic from Estonia Avenue, meanwhile, will be redirected to Pärnu Highway, and vehicles on Pärnu Highway will not be allowed to turn toward Freedom Square.
Border security heightened
Border security in Estonia will be intensified during Pope Francis' visit, according to a Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), border checks will be more frequent than usual.
The PPA thus recommends those whose movements will take them to, or near, Estonia's borders to ensure they have valid ID on them, to avoid lengthy background checks if that is not the case.
This includes not only Estonia's land borders with Russia and Latvia, but also its maritime border with Finland, so those passing through the ferry terminal and Port of Tallinn should also have ID with them, even if Estonian, EU and/or Schengen Zone citizens.
The last similar level of border security seen in Estonia happend in the second half of 2017, when Estonia hosted the rotating European presidency.
Editor: Aili Vahtla