The solemn ratification of the agreement took place today following an audience between John Paul II and Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins in the Apostolic Palace. The agreement was first signed in Riga on Nov. 8, 2000.

Berzins and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano signed the document today. In his address, Cardinal Sodano said the treaty seeks to promote "more intense" collaboration between the Holy See and the former Soviet republic.

The document establishes regulations "the juridical statute of the Catholic Church in Latvia; the internal structure and government of the Church; cooperation in areas of mutual concern such as, for example, education and religious assistance to the Catholic faithful in the armed services and in prisons."

According to the Catholic Church Yearbook, Catholics constitute 16.8% of Latvia's 2.36 million inhabitants. Most Latvians are Lutheran.