The site of the wreck of M/S “Estonia” was consecrated as a final place of rest for all people who perished together with the ferry at an international ecumenical memorial service on 26 November 1994. In conjunction with the beginning of the investigations this week, today, on 9 July, a memorial service took place at the site of the wreck of M/S “Estonia”. The service was presided over by Bishop Tiit Salumäe from Estonia, co-ministering were Bishop-emerita Tuulikki Koivunen Bylund from Sweden, Bishop-emeritus Kaarlo Kalliala and Reverend Eija Kalliala from Finland and Bishop Einārs Alpe from Latvia.
In relation to the beginning of the investigations of the wreck of M/S “Estonia”, Bishop Tiit Salumäe read at the service a message from Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Urmas Viilma. In his message, Archbishop Viilma recalled the service of prayer and blessing on 26 November 1994 at the site of the wreckage of M/S “Estonia” where Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Jaan Kiivit consecrated the site as a grave. “Since then the site of the wreck of M/S “Estonia” and its surrounding area have been regarded as a place of burial where already over a quarter-century, along with the sunken ship, lie hundreds of passengers and crewmembers,” wrote Urmas Viilma. The peace of this final resting place is protected by the international agreement concluded in February 1995.
Archbishop Urmas Viilma acknowledged that for existential questions that arise from shocking accidents or catastrophes one can provide an answer through a prism of faith: “The Christian faith affirms the inevitability of death and yet proclaims the passing of death and sufferings and the victory of life. The core message of our faith is about the resurrection from the dead and the hope of life everlasting.”
At the same time, the church leader acknowledged that while believing in the victory of life over death, one still has to seek answers to practical and to human reasoning accessible questions with the aid of tools and opportunities given to us by the development of science and technology: “Using today’s technological instruments and acquired knowledge to investigate the wreck of M/S “Estonia” is an attempt to fill in the gaps of knowledge. For this investigation states have achieved an international agreement and the approval of churches.”
The leaders of the churches in Estonia, Sweden, Finland and Latvia, in co-operation with the persons and institutions carrying out the investigation, have requested to hold a service of prayer at sea before commencing the investigative activities, in order to honour the peace of all those buried in the sea together with the wreck of M/S “Estonia”, to hold dear the memory of all the departed and to express respect for their final resting place, Archbishop Viilma clarified. “This service of prayer is an expression of love toward all whose journey on 28 September 1994 remained unfinished. They never arrived at the destination they were heading to …. However, we believe that they arrived home – eternal home.”
At today’s memorial service, clergy from four states prayed God to grant peace and eternal bliss to the departed and thanked the Creator for those who survived and were rescued. They prayed God to bless the investigative work and let it be completed successfully.