Pope to Protestants in Latvia: So our differences don't become divisions
While Latvia is a majority Lutheran country, the government declared that the pope's visit was a holiday, so many could see and hear him.
His first religious encounter was in this Lutheran cathedral, where he participated in an ecumenical prayer with Orthodox and Protestants.
When he entered, the pope could hear its famous organ, one of the largest and oldest in Europe. It was also accompanied by a bagpipe.
The Lutheran archbishop of Riga explained that the 50 years under the Soviet-imposed atheism helped Protestants and Catholics rediscover their common roots.
Then, they all prayed together accompanied by the choir, as this was the pope's request.
“... that we become weavers of unity in our cities, ensuring that our differences don't turn into divisions.”
The pope asked them not to be discouraged by internal differences nor by external resistance, which only prevent them from working together.
“Some may well say that the times in which we live are complex and difficult. Others may think that in our societies Christians have less and less margins of action or influence for any number of reasons, such as secularism or individualism. This may lead to a closed and defensive mentality, even an attitude of resignation.”
Along with the prayers throughout the ceremony, several children from the country were lighting candles as a symbol of hope for the future.
Later, the pope also visited the Catholic Cathedral, where it started to lightly rain. There, elderly and sick people from Latvia waited for him.
Pope Francis prayed a few moments in the chapel that holds the Eucharist, and then met with them.
The archbishop explained that among those listening to him, there were many who were persecuted by the Soviet regime because of their faith. For that, the pope thanked them.
“Neither the Nazi regime, nor the Soviet regime could extinguish the faith in your hearts. They also couldn't stop some of you from becoming priests, religious sisters, catechists, or from serving the Church in other ways that put your lives at risk.”
After blessing them and greeting a few, the pope went to a pastoral care center for families, which especially helps couples in crisis.