Pope Francis arrived in Lithuania on a state visit and met with the President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė. The President thanked the head of the Catholic Church for the assistance that the Holy See provided for anti-Soviet resistance in the Baltic States, reported Grybauskaitė’s press-service.
“The President thanked Pope for his attention to Lithuania, our history together and our fight for freedom. It is especially important that the Holy See, who never recognized the occupation of our state and preserved the diplomatic mission of Lithuania, consistently supported our anti-Soviet resistance,” the statement reads.
Grybauskaitė dignified the importance of the Catholic Church to the Lithuanian people. “The powerful church and its strong word is important for our country. Lithuania supports reforms and efforts of the Holy Father to bring the Church closer to people. The whole country waits for the Pope’s message and call to young people with great hope,” he said in his statement.
Grybauskaitė and Pope Francis also talked about political issues. They discussed the security issues of the Baltic region and the problem of post-Soviet space. The President expounded on the support of the Ukrainian and Georgian peoples. “Lithuania, that lives near aggression and lies, understands well and sympathizes with those countries that fight for freedom and independence.”
During the meeting, the Head of Lithuania and the Vatican exchanged gifts. Grybauskaitė presented the Pope with the symbol of Lithuania’s independence, the Liberty Bell, and an audio recording of “Gloria to Lithuania.” In response, Francis gave the Lithuanian President a reproduction of a 9th century mosaic that decorates Saint Peter’s Dome in Rome, four books that he wrote, and a Papal Medal.
Catholicism is the prevailing religion in Lithuania. 80% of Lithuanians are practicing Catholics. During the time of the Soviet Union, the Catholic priesthood was repressed, and most religious organizations were closed.
Pope Francis’s visit to Vilnius was Grybauskaitė’s sixth meeting with him. She herself had visited the Vatican four times but historically, the head of the Catholic Church has only visited Lithuania once before, in 1993, when John Paul II arrived in Lithuania after the restoration of the country’s independence.