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Rome Reports

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“In the gulag I made myself a rosary out of bread to pray with everyday,” recalls the new Lithuanian cardinal

Card. Siguitas Tamkéavichus, his eyes full of tears, recalls his time in a gulag in Siberia.

His crime was sharing with journalists of the Western world the “Chronicles of the Church in Lithuania,” a written series documenting real cases of Christian persecution. He served a 10-year sentence for reporting on the Soviet Union’s practices in Lithuania.

Archbishop of Kaunas, Lithuania

“The hardest moment of my time in prison was the interrogation. It would last up to seven hours. It was terribly exhausting.”

“A beautiful thing that happened was when one of the inmates, after being interrogated, found the faith and asked me to baptize him. I baptized him in prison.”

He never lost faith, even in the midst of the forced labor to which he was subjected. It was quite the opposite. He looked for ways to celebrate Mass while he was forced to work in the laundry from sunrise to sunset. He found a way to make a rosary with the little he had. He found in faith the strength he needed to survive the suffering.

Archbishop of Kaunas, Lithuania

“I prayed everyday. I made a rosary out of balls of bread and prayed all the mysteries with it everyday. When I could I tried to say Mass.”

In 2018 Pope Francis saw the soviet prisons for himself. Kaunas, then archbishop, accompanied him on this visit.

Just a year later, the pope has named him cardinal, a decision that for Msgr. Tamkéavichus, is not only for him, but for all Lithuanians.

Archbishop of Kaunas, Lithuania

“With this appointment I think Pope Francis wanted to recognize the Way of the Cross walked by all Lithuanians.”

The cardinal is living proof of resistance, through faith, to religious intolerance. That is why he assures that he wants to be a witness for those who suffer persecution simply for being Christian.