Cardinal Backis: Lithuania Awaiting Pope Francis With Great Joy

Pope Francis on Saturday embarks on the 25th foreign apostolic journey of his pontificate, that takes him to the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

The September 22nd pastoral visit comes in the year the three small nations are celebrating the 100th anniversary of their declarations of independence in 1918, after World War I. There is yet another anniversary.  St. Pope John Paul II visited Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in September 1993, exactly 25 years ago, as the 3 nations were shaking off over 44 decades of Soviet rule and starting to solidify democracy and live with full religious liberty.

Of the three nations, Lithuania has the largest Catholic population, numbering some 2.6 million, or nearly 80% of the its 3.24 million population.   Catholics in Latvia and Estonia, that have smaller populations, form nearly 21% and 0.5% respectively. 
The Argentine Pope will dedicate the first 2 days to Lithuania, and a day each to Latvia and Estonia, before flying back to Rome.   During the 4 days, he is scheduled to deliver 15 discourses, 7 of them in Lithuania, where he will visit the capital Vilnius and in Kaunas.   Besides the Mass on Sunday, he will hold meetings with the authorities, the young people and priests and religious.

Regarding the Pope’s visit as a gift, Cardinal Backis said they will try realize what he asks of them. During the various events and meetings, especially with young people and priests and religious, they will be able to know what Pope Francis expects from Europe and the world, Cardinal Backis said.

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Reported by: Vatican News