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last updated: 15.12.2018

The Vatican City State (the Holy See) recognised the Republic of Estonia for the first time on 10 October 1921, and re-recognised the Republic of Estonia on 28 August 1991. The Holy See has never recognised de jure or de facto the Soviet annexation. Diplomatic relations were re-established on 3 October 1991.

From 1935-1940, the Nuncio of the Vatican (Ambassador) to Estonia was Antonio Arata (presented credentials 4 December 1935), who before presenting his credentials was the chargé d’affaires of the Holy See to Estonia. Estonian Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to France, Belgium and Spain Otto Strandman was appointed the envoy of Estonia to the Holy See in 1933 (presented credentials to the Pope on 30 September 1933). In December 1939, Estonian President Konstantin Päts appointed Karl Selter, who was also the representative of Estonia to the League of Nations, as envoy to the Holy See.

The Vatican has accredited its Nuncio in Vilnius to Estonia. The first Nuncio to the re-independent Estonia was Justo Mullor Garcia (from 1992 to 1997) followed by Erwin Josef Ender (from 1997 to 2002), Peter Stephan Zurbriggen (from 2002 to 2009) and Luigi Bonazzi The current Apostolic Nuncio to Estonia Archbishop Pedro López Quintana presented his credentials to President of the Republic Toomas Hendrik Ilves on 24 April 2014.

On 10 September 2005, Father Philippe Jourdan, who since 1996 had headed the representation of the Holy See in Tallinn, was consecrated to the episcopate of the Estonian Catholic Church at St. Olaf’s Church.

Upon the re-establishment of independence, Estonia accredited its Ambassador in Bonn to the Holy See. The first Ambassador was Tiit Matsulevitsh (1993-1996); he was followed by Ambassadors Margus Laidre (1997-2000), Indrek Tarand (2001-2002), Priit Kolbre (2003-2006), Jüri Seilenthal (2007-2016) and Paul Teesalu (2016-2018). The new Ambassador Paul Teesalu presented his credentials on 13 December 2018.


To Estonia
September 2018 His Holiness Pope Francis
May 2016 Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin
September 2009 Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States Archbishop Dominique Mamberti
September 1993 His Holiness Pope John Paul II


To the Vatican
February 2018 Prime Minister Jüri Ratas
March 2013 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip at the installation ceremony of Pope Francis
May 2011 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves participated in the beatification ceremony of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican
December 2010 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
May 2005 President Arnold Rüütel at the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the installation ceremony of Pope Benedict XVI
September 1994 Official visit of President Lennart Meri to the Vatican


On 2 May 1995, the Apostolic Administration of the Roman Catholic Church was entered onto the church register with the Religious Affairs Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Ensuing from the law of Estonian churches and congregations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in co-operation with the Religious Affairs Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs prepared an agreement between the Republic of Estonia and the Holy See on the legal status of the Catholic Church, which came into force via an exchange of notes on 12 March 1999. The agreement sets the legal arrangement between Estonia and the Vatican. In order to resolve some issues that became apparent when the law of churches and congregations went into effect, the Ministry of Internal Affairs developed an amendment to the law, which came into force on 12 February 2011.

Catholics in Estonia

As a result of the Reformation in the middle of the 14th century, the Lutheran Church became influential in Estonia and the Catholic Church almost disappeared. Catholic Church in Estonia was re-established only in the 19th century. The first congregations were opened in Tallinn and Tartu, members being mostly Poles and Lithuanians. Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral was built in Tallinn and the Church of Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Tartu.

During the first period of the Republic of Estonia, the Catholic Church became directly subject to the Pope. In 1936, Eduard Profittlich was ordained as the first Catholic bishop in Estonia in 500 years. Catholic Church in Estonia suffered severely under Stalinist repression, among others Bishop Profittlich died in a Kirov prison in Russia in 1942. Before World War II, there were 11 Catholic congregations in Estonia and 14 priests.

During the Soviet occupation, all the congregations were closed – only the churches of Tallinn and Tartu remained open. Estonian territories were merged with the diocese of Riga. A new rise began in the 1970s, when many people within Lutheran circles and musicians started to take interest in the Catholic Church. The "renaissance" of Catholicism in Estonia started with the activities of the early music ensemble “Hortus Musicus”, the ordainment of Rein Õunapuu, a priest of Estonian origin, and the visit of the Pope in 1993.

Since the 1990s, several orders have settled anew in Estonia and a number of congregations have been restored. Today there are 9 Catholic congregations and 7 orders in Estonia and according to the census of 2011, 4,501 people considered themselves to be Catholic. The congregations of the Roman Catholic Church have been mainly established in the cities. As was mentioned, several orders of the Roman Catholic Church have (re)started their activities in the 1990s: the Order of Friars Minor, the Order of the Dominican Brothers in Estonia (ST Catherine’s monastery), the Order of the Missionaries of Charity in Estonia, the Order of the Most Holy Saviour of St. Bridget (St Bridget’s Convent), Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Felix of Cantalice of III Order of St. Francis of Assisi, Missionaries of the Precious Blood, the Congregation of Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary.

With the assistance of the Holy See several important events have taken place: the renovation of the congregation building in Narva, the construction of the congregation building in Valga, the construction of the Tallinn Catholic Centre, the establishment of the Tartu Catholic School, the creation of the Academia Catholica Estoniensis in the old Dominican Monastery. In April 2001, Pirita’s district government decided to give use of the ruins of St Bridget's Convent and the cemetery over to the Order of the Most Holy Saviour of St Bridget for ten years. In 2011, the contract was extended for five more years. Co-ordinated by Lagle Parek, the executive director of the charity organisation Caritas, a new convent complex was built beside the ruins and was opened in August 2001, when the anniversary St Bridget's birth was celebrated.

In November 2003, the Nuncio Arch Bishop Peter Stephan Zurbriggen gave former Estonian Ambassador to the Holy See Indrek Tarand the Knights Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great for helping develop relations between the Holy See and Estonia.

Cultural Relations

On 10 December 2011, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Arvo Pärt member of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

On 4 July 2011 Pope Benedict XVI hosted a reception in The Vatican for selected artists under the title Homage of Artists to mark the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. There were only three composers among the 60 famous artists who were invited, and one of the three was Arvo Pärt. Those invited were requested to dedicate one piece of work to the Pope as a gift. The ceremony was opened with Pärt’s Vater Unser performed by the talented boy soprano Heldur Harry Põlda with the composer at the piano.

Arvo Pärt has previously been invited to other events in the Vatican. On 28 May 2011 Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music (Pontificio Istituto di Musica Sacra) celebrated its centenary by awarding honorary doctorates Laurea Honoris Causa di Musica Sacra to three prominent figures of modern music. The title was granted to the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, the Swiss conductor and organist Diego Fasolis and the Italian organist and music researcher Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini.

On 1 October 2010 a concert was held in honour of Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican, where the choir and orchestra of the National Academy of St Cecilia were conducted by Neeme Järvi in their performance of Pärt’s Cecilia, Vergine Romana.

On 21 November 2009 Pärt was the only Estonian among 250 sculptors, painters, composers, conductors, architects, performers and writers who met the Pope in the Sistine Chapel.

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