The Catholic Church in Estonia, 1918-2001

By Salo, Vello | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2002 | Go to article overview

The Catholic Church in Estonia, 1918-2001


Salo, Vello, The Catholic Historical Review


In the Middle Ages, Estonia was Catholic for roughly four centuries (1227-1626). Under Swedish rule (1561-1710) the Catholic faith was forbidden and, after the expulsion of the last faithful in 1626, the Catholic tradition in Estonia was totally wiped out.1 Under the Russian Emperors (1710-1918), as the Catholic religion was permitted again, a diaspora Catholic community was born, belonging to the Archdiocese of Mohilev, which covered all Russia. Four missions (later parishes) were created: Tallinn (German: Reval, Russian: Revel, 1786), Narva (1835), Tartu (German: Dorpat, Russian: Jurjew, 1849), and Valga (German: Valk, 1915). They took care of Catholics, belonging to different nationalities of the Russian Empire.2 For the Estonians, it remained a church of foreigners.

The First Apostolic Administrator: Antonino Zecchini, SJ., 1924-1931

After the Russian revolution of 1917, Estonia and its neighbors (Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania) grasped the opportunity to gain their national independence. In the year 1918 Estonians proclaimed the Republic of Estonia, a democratic state, which granted all citizens the freedom of religion.3

For the Catholics in the new independent States of the Baltic region, the political independence meant also ecclesiastical reorganization. The first step was the passage (1918) of Estonia from the jurisdiction of Mohilev to the newly re-erected Diocese of Riga (which had been the center of the Crusades against Estonia in the thirteenth century, and then the metropolitan see for Estonia's three Catholic dioceses until 1560). A second step was prepared and brought to conclusion by Archbishop Antonino Zecchini, who was first nominated Apostolic Visitor for the three Baltic States (1921), then Apostolic Delegate for the same (1922), and finally (1924) the first Apostolic Administrator of Estonia. This new Apostolic Administration was immediately subject to the Holy See, and thus no longer to the Archbishop of Riga. Until the present day Estonia has remained an Apostolic Administration.

In the year 1918 there were only four Catholic parishes (Tallinn,Tartu, Narva, and Valga) in Estonia, all of them urban communities. Before the beginning of World War I, there had been some 6,000 Catholics in Estonia, but as many of them were military and civil servants of the Russian Empire and after its collapse emigrated from Estonia, the first Estonian census (1922) found only 2,536 Catholics (or 0.2% of a total population of 1,107,000, vs. 79% Lutherans and 19% Orthodox) in the country.4

It was a little flock, but dispersed in many small groups, a typical Diaspora church. About the half of all the faithful resided in the capital city, Tallinn, forming the only sizable congregation. The main problem of the new Administrator was regular pastoral care for all those small groups outside Tallinn. Moreover, there was the language question to complicate the situation: a traveling priest or catechizes would have needed the knowledge of at least five languages (Polish, Lithuanian, German, Russian, and Estonian). Many of the Catholics were of Polish and Lithuanian origin, who did not speak Estonian at all (until 1918 they did not need to, as everybody was able to communicate in Russian, the language of the Empire); this is why the Estonians used the name "the Polish church." Indeed, this was the prevailing language in the most visible parish, that of Tallinn.

At the beginning of his pastoral service (1924) Archbishop Zecchini had only three priests to take care of his four parishes, one diocesan and two Jesuit fathers (born respectively in Latvia, Luxembourg, and Germany). Fortunately, these parishes possessed relatively new churches: built in 1845 (in Tallinn), 1899 (in Tartu), and 1907 (in Narva and Valga). Unfortunately, the Archbishop had to reside outside Estonia, as he became also papal nuncio for Latvia. His diplomatic tasks did not give him much time for pastoral work, as even the legal conditions for the activity of the Catholic Church in Estonia had to be worked out on a governmental level, all of his three priests being of non-Estonian origin. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Catholic Church in Estonia, 1918-2001
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.