Lithuanian ambassador hopes papal visit “will help to solve problems” in country

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With Catholics representing nearly 80 percent of its population, Lithuania is overflowing with excitement in expectation of Pope Francis' two-day visit in late September. 

As the country regained its independence just over two decades ago, officials hope the Holy Father will provide inspiration for a quickly growing nation. 

Lithuanian Ambassador to the Holy See
“The image of Holy Father Francis is enormous in our country. Everybody – including the society, non-governmental organizations and state people – is expecting that he will say something important to all of us which will help us to continue in our lives. Being one of the most important spiritual leaders of the world, he probably will help to solve our problems we still have in our country.”

The ambassador says among those problems is a lack of solidarity with migrants, assuring he and his fellow Lithuanians have much to learn from the pope's message. 

Lithuanian Ambassador to the Holy See
“We all in the world are refugees in a way, like Pope Francis told us all – don't be afraid to accept different people, because we are all moving people.”

Lithuania is no stranger to oppression, as it was one of the countries affected most by 20th century totalitarian regimes. In the midst of the suffering was Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, a martyr and hero for the nation.  

Many parallels can be drawn between the current Holy Father and Matulionis, who was beatified last year. The archbishop thanked God in letters for sending priests and bishops to prisons and forced labor camps, saying it meant “where the sheep are, the shepherds are too.”

Lithuanian Ambassador to the Holy See
“He was among the leaders of Lithuanian Catholic Church freedom fighters, of the freedom movement. As a person, a priest, an archbishop, he's a very important symbol, because he was in prison and fighting for a free Lithuanian spirit.”

That same spirit and enthusiasm will surely be demonstrated to Pope Francis when he lands in Vilnius on September 22, encountering all the sheep whom the archbishop's example has continued to guide even after his death. 

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